Dashboard-driven development, metrics-driven development, whatever you may call it, it’s super important. I’m embarassed to that this, but after running a successful site for over four years, I didn’t have a dashboard with even the most basic of metrics like new users per day or anything insightful about the site’s usage.

It’s embarassing because without a easy to access view of the data, I’ve never been able to fully understand anything about my site. Did that change hurt traffic? Did the impressions drop but DAU is actually up? Is anyone even using the referral system I built?

These aren’t hard questions to answer, but you need to see the data to know. Not only do you need access to it, but it can’t just be sitting in a fucking database somewhere, it needs to be easy to get to. It needs to be in your face pretty regularly as well.

So after over 4 years of being blind, I started to build out a stats dashboard showing the last thirty days of data at a glance. Even without a full month’s worth of data accumulated yet, the data was instantly invaluable. With that data, I was able to establish a target goal that we can shoot for.

In retrospect, I should have started with the metrics dashboard first, before writing any code. Just slapping together a mock up of a dashboard with data based on what functionality I was planning to build for the site.. Actually fuck mocking it up, it really just needs to be a list of user stories and what you want to be able to track.

Everything a user does on a site is something that could potentially be tracked. I’m not saying that you should track ever single thing, but if you do, you won’t end up wishing you did down the road ;)