WebTrends, oh how you shit me

My work uses WebTrends to track people using our sites. It's not cheap, and the user interface is mind bogglingly stupid. It's, of course, one of these JavaScript-heavy, wait-for-everything-to-load-before-clicking-anything-or-it-all-goes-kaboom boondoggles. But that's not the worst of it.

Let's say I want to create a new report. You'd think it would be easy, wouldn't you? Well now that I've done it dozens of times, I nearly always remember all the steps. But let me take you through those oh-so-intuitive steps.

Step 1: Create the report. You think with navigation headings of "Reports & Profiles", "Report Configuration", "Report Designer", "Options", the place to look would be "Report Designer", since what you want to do is, like, design a new report. Wrong. No, you have to go to "Reporting Configuration", expand "Custom Reports", then click on "Reports". "Report Designer" doesn't, it seems, contain anything to do with designing reports. No, it's all about placing reports you've designed into "Templates", which is the next step.

So you design your report. The interface here isn't especially intuitive, but then we're dealing with quite a bit of complexity, so it's perhaps excusable. WebTrends certainly seems capable of some pretty cool shit, but the easy stuff isn't easy.

Step 2: Place your shiny new report in a Template. Next you need to place the report in a Template so it will actually show up. When saving your report, rather than have a nice, obvious next step to make your report show up, you instead have to save the report, remember its name, then find a template to place it on.

So you go in and choose a template. I'm sure there must be people out there using loads of templates, because that certainly seems to be what they're catering for. Us? We use just the one. So you select that, click the "Content" tab, then find a place in the template to put your report. Be sure to let the whole thing load, or it'll completely crap out with the whole application stopping and then you need to close your browser and start again. You click "Add Report" and it comes up with a list of reports you've never touched, rather than the "Custom Reports" you've just created. Once again, wait for it all to load, then change the view to "Custom Report Library" and select your report.

I bet you think you're done now, and your shiny new report should show up. Think again. No, WebTrends has this concept "Profiles", so as well as different templates you can control access to individual reports. Us, we use just the one, but we're burdened with the complexity of being able to have loads more. So now you need to do yet another step.

Step 3: Add access to the report to your profile. So you click "Reports & Profiles", then your profile, hover over it and choose edit from the dropdown that appears. You want to make this report available from this profile, so logically which top-level menu would you choose from "Analysis", "Reports", "Administration", "Advances", "Change History" and "Summary". If you thought "Reports", go to the back of the class -- you haven't grasped the pathological unfriendliness of this application's UI yet. No, to add a report to the profile, you choose "Advanced", then "Reports", go down the list until you find your report and tick "Enabled". Gah!

So now your report should finally be available, or at least available the next time the reports get run.

Someone at WebTrends really really needs to hire a user interface designer and some user testing. A version that makes the easy things easy while keeping the hard things possible is what they need to work on. Or you could just use Google Analytics, which is a damn sight cheaper and a lot more flexible.

What really doesn't help is that, despite being a hosted application, the WebTrends documentation library doesn't have any idea what version you're running. It presents all sorts of irrelevant documentation to you, to help take your confusion to even higher levels.