I was advised by a reader that Google Analytics now visualizes web visits with Sankey-style diagrams. On the Google Analytics blog this new instrument was presented.

“Our design team chose not to build individual “path analysis,” which can quickly become complicated. Instead, they took inspiration from a wide range of sources to reimagine approaches for visualizing visitor flow. Our goal is to help marketers and analysts better optimize their visitor experience by presenting the ways that visitors flow through their sites in an intuitive and useful way.”


(via visualisingdata)

The flows look neat, but they are still struggling with the diagonal routing of the arrows where the width of the flow is not maintained. Check the flow that leaves the node in the bottom left corner of the picture below.


(Source: Google Analytics Blog)

All in all a great new tool and this will surely help spread the idea of Sankey diagrams for visualizing flow quantities.

UK-based Stuart Brown at Modern Life in his latest post (“The Varying Virtues of Site Performance Metrics”) uses a Sankey diagram to visualize web site performance. This is a rather novel idea of using Sankey diagrams, but hey, why not?

This nicely done Sankey diagram – in this case without any absolute or relative numbers – shows where web site visitors come from (input flows from the left side), and if their visit can be considered successful (that is, meeting the “goal” of the site operator) or not as output flows to the right side. Returning visitors are shown with a “browsing loop” in the Sankey diagram.

I really like this Sankey diagram and I would love to see web site metrics being visualized in this way. It really is a good visualization and can show how a website performs, although Brown acknowledges that “there simply isn’t any single great method of gauging a site’s performance”.

Coming back to the Sankey diagram itself, it does however have a small flaw. Look at the grey arrows for “Bounce” and “Non-goal visit”. The latter does not connect to the “Page Load” node, but rather seems to dive under the “Bounce” flow and appears where this one branches of vertically.

I have created two alternative Sankey diagrams where these two flows set off from the “Page Load” box parallel (stacked), rather than in an overlay manner. The overall quantity represented by the flows on the output side should be equal to the number of visitors on the input side. The first diagram keeps the original idea of the browsing loop coming in from the top, the second one hooks it on the left side of the box.


Alternative version:

As for the colors of the two diagrams above, sorry Stuart, didn’t hit the right values right away…