Why people hate the Google Analytics 4 user interface

Marketers are not happy with the Google Analytics 4 user interface (UI).

In fact, social media has been inundated with complaints about the Universal Analytics replacement – but it’s concerns over the UI that have been dominating the conversation.

So, is the GA4 UI really as bad as some are claiming? We spoke to three digital marketing experts to find out…

‘Usability is poor – but hang in there!’

Janet Driscoll Miller, president and CEO of Marketing Mojo, isn’t a fan of GA4’s UI but said “it’s not terrible”. She believes the difficulties that arise are due tot he platform being so new and different to Universal Analytics. “I don’t think Google did a very good job with usability in the design of the interface,” she tells Search Engine Land.

  • The settings and layout aren’t intuitive – “For example, if you create an Explorations report, you must first essentially import the dimensions and metrics you’d like to pull from in the first settings column, then pull from those into the second column which creates your data visualization. That’s certainly different than UA and not necessarily very clear to new users.”
  • Google needs to make some tweaks – “I think I speak for most Google Analytics power users here, they really need to add back the Annotations feature. It was a great UA feature and likely isn’t difficult to program (it’s literally a note and a date) but it was so helpful to many of us, especially when doing forensic or troubleshooting projects and working with large teams.”
  • Fix the sharing of Explorations reports – “When you currently create and share an Explorations report with others, you a) cannot limit who it is specifically shared with and b) those that it is shared with cannot change the report date range. Currently for others to change a shared report’s date range, the user must make a copy of the report so that user becomes that new report copy’s owner and then the date can be altered.”

If you’re struggling to navigate the new UI, simply keep practicing, Miller said.

“The more you become accustomed to how GA4 works, the easier it will get over time,” she said. “Change is hard, but this is here to stay. Before too long, we’ll all be much better with it. Hang in there!”

‘GA4 lacks basic capabilities – but we’ll get used to it’

Independent contractor and advisor, John Erikson, has been feeling increasingly frustrated with the GA4 UI. Universal Analytics was more straightforward and easier to navigate, which made simple tasks, like creating reports, much easier to carry out, he said.

Erikson explained:

  • No ability to use regex in the search box: “You can only search one phrase at a time which is very limiting. The only way I could find to filter by URL patterns was to set up Audiences. But Audiences have to be set up in advance, cannot be edited/changed, and the regex is limited to 100 characters so I had to split long patterns in to many chunks to build audiences.”
  • Problems arise if URL structures are tweaked: “If anything changes in the site in URL structure (which is guaranteed to happen many times in the future), the audience becomes obsolete and no way to look backwards.”
  • Time-consuming mistakes: “If you make any mistake in creating an Audience, you have to discard what you did and create a new one.”
  • Segments/dimensions issues: “On selecting segments/dimensions in GA4, instead of the ability in Universal to select/deselect one or more segments in a single list and click apply, you have to open customization or add comparison, click add filter, select a dimension from a long dropdown, then select dimension value from another dropdown, then apply (and you can only select one). Granted it is only a few seconds difference, but when you look at many different patterns every day, it becomes frustrating to repeat those excess UI moves over and over when you used to do it faster.”
  • Clumsy design: “That same dropdown structure is used in creating/editing GA4 reports. The dropdown lists are long and it is hard to find what you are looking for.  You can type in partial names and more quickly find them once you know them, but initially it is very hard to scroll through them all and find what you want. Also, you can only select one so it is hard to look at multiple dimensions/values. I do find it clumsy to use.”

Despite Erkison’s issues with the new platform, he realizes it’s here to stay and is confident he will get used to it and adapt.

“It’s just frustrating when you’ve used a system that works well for many years and see it replaced by a supposed improvement that is just harder to use and lacks such basic capabilities,” he added

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‘GA4 is missing the simplest functions’

Chris Fox, independent analytics strategist, has also been experiencing problems with GA4’s UI. He notes that simple functions that were present in UA are now either completely missing or are more complicated and time-consuming to perform. He explained:

  • “Time Series charts can only show data at the day level and cannot be changed to view data at a Week/Month level.”
  • “You have to edit reports to be able to use basic dimensions like Landing Page in a Traffic report.”
  • “Segments are gone and instead we have ‘Comparisons’, which don’t have preset options and do not allow you to save the ‘Comparisons’ you create like you could with Segments.”
  • “If you want to add a filter to both dimensions in a report with a secondary dimension, you cannot do it in the table — rather, you have to filter one in the table and the other at the report-level at the top of the page (or both at the report-level).”
  • “When you edit a report to add metrics, you are limited to 12; so I’m often editing a report just to view a certain metric and then resetting back to the previous configuration.”
  • “Before, if I wanted to look at a visualization of monthly traffic for the last year, I just had to change the date granularity in the line chart on the Channels report to ‘Monthly.’ To do that in GA4, I’d have to download the data and create the chart myself in Excel/Tableau/etc.”

Venting his frustrations, Fox told Search Engine Land that these unnecessary, time-wasting changes have made GA4 “feel like a free edition of the full product which was Universal Analytics”.

Unfortunately, he joins a long list of marketers that have been making the same complaints about the GA4 UI.

Why we care: If enough people are experiencing the same problems with GA4 and these issues are then reported to Google, the search engine may review its product to make necessary changes. In the event it doesn’t, marketers will be forced to come up with their own solutions – and it will undoubtedly be easier to come together in order to brainstorm ideas.

Deep dive. For more information on how to migrate to GA4, read Google’s ‘Learn how to make the switch‘ guide.

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