Jeff Croft

I’m a product designer in Seattle, WA. I recently worked at Simply Measured, and previously co-founded Lendle.

Some of my past clients include Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the University of Washington.

I’ve authored two books on web and interactive design and spoken at dozens of conferences around the world.

I’m currently accepting contract work and considering full-time opportunities.

Blog entry // 09.02.2005 // 3:04 PM // 21 Comments

Mint: Better than Girl Scout Cookies

Have a MintIf you run a website of any kind, you know how important it is to get a quick, at-a-glance overview of the goings-on related to visits, referrers, searches, and the like. Being able to easily keep track of this kind of information allows you to make sound decisions about how you should develop, tweak, and promote your site.

However, most of the stat-tracking tools out there aren’t ideal, at least for me. Most of them are enormous, monolithic programs that keep every minor detail of every hit since the beginning of time and package them in a horrific user interface, making the actual browsing an analysis of these stats nearly impossible. The are a handful of tools I’ve seen that work well and have a nice UI, but they tend to be very expensive (see Urchin, now a product of Google’s). But, for the past couple of months I’ve been involved in beta testing a stat-tracking application that turns out to be exactly what I need. It’s called Mint, and it’s yet another production of The Wolf himself, Shaun Inman. The best news is that you’ll be able to get your grubby little mitts on it early next week it’s finally available for your purchase and download.

Mint differs from these other gargantuan applications in that it aims to provide a quick look at your site’s “current conditions,” rather than logging its entire history of minutiae. It allows you to very quickly assess your site’s hits, your visitor’s technical demographics, your referrers, and search terms — both local and from Google and its ilk. And it does all of this in one of the most beautiful application interfaces you ever have seen.

I’d like to take a moment to feature one of the most useful tools in Mint: User Agent 007. Mint is built using an plug-in architecture, allowing both Shaun and other developers to quickly add functionality to the core Mint application. In typical Inman fashion, these plug-ins are called Pepper. User Agent 007 is one of the default Peppers that come with Mint, and it empowers you with a host of information about your visitor’s browsing environment. Among them are: browser name and version, platform, screen resolution, and Flash version.

Mint User Agent 007

You can quickly toggle between the four panes (without reloading the page, of course) using the links in the upper-right, and you can also expand some statistics for further details:

Mint User Agent 007

I don’t need to tell you guys how valuable this information is. You already know. The ability to view it quickly and in a interface that you can make sense out of at-a-glance is truly a Godsend.

And, as wonderful as it is, User Agent 007 is only one of many great features in Mint 1.0 — I assure you there are many more, as well. Keep your eyes peeled for its imminent release. If you run a website, you really owe it to yourself to have a Mint.

In the meantime, you might want to check out these other stories from Mint beta testers:

Update: Mint is now available from the Mint website. Go get it!

Comments

  1. 001 // Andy Hume // 09.02.2005 // 4:07 PM

    Any news on the cost of this mouth-watering confectionary?

  2. 002 // Remi // 09.02.2005 // 4:53 PM

    Cool, I’m eager to see the final product!

  3. 003 // Elliot Swan // 09.02.2005 // 5:57 PM
    Any news on the cost of this mouth-watering confectionary?

    I’m wondering the same thing…

  4. 004 // Sid Upadhyay // 09.02.2005 // 6:40 PM

    Nice, atleast you weren’t a “Whore,” Mike and showed off your refers from MSNBC and metafilter ;) Also pretty cool to hear about mint’s capabilities of “Peppers.”

  5. 005 // Jeff Croft // 09.02.2005 // 6:42 PM

    Sid-

    We’ve come to expect nothing less than whoring out of Mike. We actually encourage it, so we can make fun of him behind his back. :)

  6. 006 // Mike S. // 09.02.2005 // 7:37 PM

    All these talks about Mint and still no “We’ll let you know” email from the signup page. At least this way we get to see some pictures.

    Is anyone else getting that funny, but good, tingly feeling all over their body?

  7. 007 // Sean Sperte // 09.03.2005 // 2:56 AM

    I’m just surprised you have that many IE users. You should tell them this site begs to be seen with anti-aliasing.

  8. 008 // Dale Cruse // 09.03.2005 // 9:01 PM

    Looks tasty. Can’t wait to try it.

  9. 009 // Mike D. // 09.04.2005 // 12:07 PM

    Sid: I think whore is not the correct word. Arrogant showoff is more accurate… and I gladly accept that title. :)

  10. 010 // Jeff Croft // 09.04.2005 // 5:15 PM

    Since the question of cost keeps coming up…

    …I can assure you that it’s very affordable. You’d pay more for a decent dinner than you will for Mint.

  11. 011 // Rowan Lewis // 09.05.2005 // 7:33 AM

    That looks like a really nice tool, better than any of the garbage available today. Will developers be able to sell their own Peppers?

    Also, can someone fill me in on the story behind the nick name ‘The Wolf’? It just happens that I’ve gone by that name for a few years… its confusing to see it in referance to someone else :)

  12. 012 // Jeff Croft // 09.05.2005 // 5:34 PM

    Everyone: Mint is now available! Go get it!

    Andy, Elliot: I can now say publicly that the cost of Mint is $30 per site.

    Rowan: Developers will be able to create Peppers. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to sell them, or simply offer them free from the Mint website.

    Re: “The Wolf”: I am unsure who gave Shaun this nickname (although I believe it was Mike Davidson). In any case, it’s a refertence to the character of the same name in the flick Pulp Fiction. That character is the man who is an expert at solving problems, and Shaun is his web counterpart. Few people seem to have a handle on web development from top to bottom like Shaun do (design, programming, marketing, etc.), so the name seems to fit. In short, Shaun is a jack of all trades, master of all.

  13. 013 // Elliot Swan // 09.05.2005 // 8:52 PM
    Andy, Elliot: I can now say publicly that the cost of Mint is $30 per site.

    Awesome.

    I wonder how long it’ll be until the demo is back up..

  14. 014 // Brian // 09.05.2005 // 10:43 PM

    I wish someone had mentioned it was going to cost $30 per site. I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as excited. I think most people would be plenty happy with the free ShortStat.

  15. 015 // Jeff Croft // 09.05.2005 // 10:56 PM

    Brian-

    Shaun has spent the past several months building this thing from the ground up. From this point onward, building these kinds of tools will be his primary source of income. I can certainly understand your disappointment that Mint is not free, but hopefully you can also understand why it wouldn’t be feasible for Shaun to invest the resources to build something like this if he weren’t being compensated for it. This kind of work is his job — his only job.

    Certainly no one ever suggested Mint would be free. ShortStat 2.0 (which never came to be, as it was replaced by Mint) was always planned as a commercial product, and this fact was widely known.

    A one-time $30 fee is much less than a typical web-hosting package for one year. It’s less than most people pay for a domain name registration for a year. It’s far, far less than any comparable stats package. It’s less than many blogging and other CMS-type packages. In short, $30 should be well-within the reach of anyone who is already running a website.

    If you see the importance of web applications that are designed with so-called “Web 2.0” values — standards compliance, quality design, buzzword-support (AJAX, RSS, etc.) — then you understand why Mint is leading the charge towards a better web along with a small handful of other apps (Basecamp, Backpack, Blinksale, etc.). To me, that sort of added value makes Mint worth the small fee compared the antiquated, poorly-designed, and comparatively-pathetic free stats packages of old.

    If you don’t agree, that’s fine. No one is forcing you to buy it. :)

  16. 016 // CC // 09.06.2005 // 2:18 PM

    I see on the Mint page that you need Javascript enabled to record hits. Huh? Does this mean that Mint only records hits from the supported browsers, and that it adds a Javascript “bug” to web pages? If not, what exactly does that mean?

  17. 017 // Jeff Croft // 09.06.2005 // 2:29 PM

    CC-

    I see on the Mint page that you need Javascript enabled to record hits. Huh? Does this mean that Mint only records hits from the supported browsers?

    This means that Mint only records hits from Javascript-enabled browsers, yes. Obviously just about every browser released since, I dunno, 1996, has Javascript support. The reason for this is referrer spam. By requiring that people be using a javascript-enabled browser, Shaun is ensuring that they are actual visits to your site, and not bots hitting your server with referrer spam (bots don’t have javascript).

    and that it adds a Javascript ‘bug’ to web pages?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “bug,” but each page that you wish to record hits on get a reference to a script added to them that looks something like this:

    <script src="/mint/mint.js.php" type="text/javascript"></script>

    Does that answer your question?

  18. 018 // CC // 09.07.2005 // 10:08 AM

    Yes, that answers my question, and I think the reasoning is sound. I was under the impression Mint was a log chewer, but it sounds like it just dumps data into a database on the fly.

    There is precious little info on the Mint site, which makes for some confusion - I think it would be better if he would just come forward with how it works, because anyone thinking of installing Mint would want to know this sort of stuff ahead of time.

    For instance, knowing that you need to add some code to each page you want to track could be an issue, since it potentially involves adding code to a lot of legacy HTML pages. Those of us running CMS’s are fine - we just add that snippet to the page template - but people should know before they buy what it would take to get Mint working with their site.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question!

  19. 019 // Jeff Croft // 09.07.2005 // 10:17 AM

    CC-

    I’ll point out your comments to Shaun…

    Thanks!

  20. 020 // Hisyam // 09.07.2005 // 10:43 AM

    nice, mint doesn’t support IE at all!!

    i get errors on page using mint on IE. Yes I have FF and Opera but why is IE unsupported?

  21. 021 // Jeff Croft // 09.07.2005 // 10:46 AM

    Hisyam-

    You’re right, Mint doesn’t support IE. You’d have to ask Shaun for specific reasons as to why it’s not supported. I only know what’s on the Mint website:

    In order to view Mint you should be using a modern browser with support for transparent PNGs, modern DOM scripting (including XMLHTTPRequest) with competency in CSS 2. Safari or Firefox, both free, are highly recommended. Internet Explorer PC support is planned but not an immediate priority. IE Mac will not be supported.