Firebase Analytics Reporting: Tips to Overcome the Limitations of Your Favorite Mobile App Analytics Tool by Google


Introduction
Firebase is one of the popular products from the Google Analytics product family that has rapidly gained an affinity as a go-to tool for App development & analytics. Firebase SDK provides a bagful of features to make the end-to-end process of mobile app development run as smooth as a hot knife through butter. After its acquisition by Google Analytics, Firebase is now a wholesome platform for your app development & app data analytics requirements. Today we are going to focus on Firebase Analytics and limitations we face while using the tool for data analysis & insights. In this blog, we will also look at workarounds for each of the major limitations & discover how swiftly we can overcome them.

Why we love Firebase Analytics

  • No additional cost for analytics data collection – yes it is totally free of cost.
  • Unlimited data collection – can collect upto 500 unique events.
  • Crucial events’ data collection is done automatically. This includes events like App installs, App uninstalls, In-app purchases, App updates, etc.

There are quite a few other bundled up features of Firebase Analytics such as Crash Reports, Notifications Setup that targets the Audience generated by Analytics, and diverse sets of events.

Firebase Analytics Limitations: Our wishlist for Firebase Analytics & a few basic work arounds to overcome the limitations and achieving better reporting

  1. Restricted Reporting :
    • Firebase reporting console barely offers any course of action to view data in diverse ways. We have the one and only “Events” Report to view all the tracked events at once. Elaborating further, the Events Report provides no major cardinality on reporting apart from the option to apply a basic filter on either “Event Name” or “User Property”.
    • Other major limitation of Event Report worth highlighting is the inability to view the extra parameters tracked with one single event in the said report. Note: Firebase Analytics can report data only on 10 text parameters and 40 numeric parameters in the Event Report.

      Image 1 : Setting Up Parameter – Limitation.

    • Firebase also falls short of API support so as to access the collected analytical data.

    Workaround: Your best bet to access the raw analytics data is to link your Firebase Analytics data with BigQuery.  And when it comes to BigQuery, performing analysis on massive datasets is simply more straightforward. This will solve a major issue of limited data access, and, at the same time, we also gain the liberty to perform analysis on diverse datasets in a single pane.

    Note: Linking to BigQuery will cost us a few pence!

  2. Event Limitations :
    • Despite the fact that Firebase offers unlimited event collection for each event type for your App, it has confined us to the range of the said event types. This means we can only have 500 unique events for an individual app in the Firebase project. To begin with, this limit does not seem much of a hurdle, but if we revamp our app tracking or if we keep updating the event tracking process, without a doubt we are going to meet the dead end of reporting platform.

    Thus, precautionary steps to manage the event limitations are:

    • To wisely design the event names before they are implemented.
    • To define a standard structure, identify the events and the required parameters for event tracking in an app.

    For Example:

    • Navigation Event: This event is templatized for all the navigations that a user can perform within an app.
      navigation_<from_to>” – here “from” and “to” are navigation sections defined in app.
      Parameter1 – intermediate of navigations to be tracked in this parameter.
      Eg. navigation_home_help, navigation_home_mens-shirt.
    • Product Interactions: This event is templatized for user interaction with the product.
      product_<interaction>” – various product actions(i.e. View, click, addtocart) can be tracked.
      Parameter1 : “category”
      Parameter2 : “product name”
      Eg. product_view, product_detailed.
    • For Articles :  This event is templatized for tracking of articles.
      article_<action>” – various article actions (i.e.  viewed, click, read_began, read_incomplete) can be tracked.    Eg. article_clicked, article_read_began,article_read_complete.
  3. Campaign Attribution :
    • The attribution of Install referrers in Firebase is controlled by Firebase SDK itself. Currently, Firebase tracks attribution for a limited number of Advertisers which are defined in this link. For any other platform or source/medium attribution, other than the listed Advertisers, the default attribution of source/medium will be done to direct.

    Workaround: Knowing the fact that we are missing out on a major custom campaign attribution, we need a quick fix on it. For this, we have worked out a solution which I shall share with you as a separate blog post.  Our custom solution includes tracking both; install referrers and custom campaign data. Below is the glimpse of Attribution Report for Custom Attributions.

      Image 2: Attribution Report with custom “source” value.

Conclusion
Here, we have discussed how data can be analyzed in a better way by linking BigQuery as compared to the normal reporting. Also, for reporting it is necessary that we collect meaningful data and as mentioned in point 2 above, do not reach the limitation of the event type that is getting tracked. We have already seen a few examples of how to structure and design the events in this blog, and we hope you find them resourceful.

Quick Tip: If using Firebase Analytics, do plan out the tracking approach and efficiently design the events for the same. This will yield absolute data in reports and help you analyze it.

The limitations discussed above cover a large ground of Firebase Analytics. However,  if we have missed out any titbits on the same, do comment in below section and we will be happy to acknowledge it!

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8 Comments. Leave new

  • Thanx for sharing such useful post keep it up.

    Reply
  • Hey Rajeshree,
    Nice article. I have couple of questions about limitation.
    1. Does firebase log user properties when the events are logged or is there a way to only log user proerties?
    2. Is there a way by which we can log user properties for other users? Just to elaborate a case, if we are scoring a cricket match and I have a property matches_played at the end of the match, can I set properties of all the players who played that match?

    Reply
    • Hi Kuntal,

      Thanks for reading article. Here’s the solution for your query:

      1) You can set user property using:
      FirebaseAnalytics.setUserProperty(“user_property_key”, “user property value”);

      2) Directly it’s not possible because all Firebase user has their own “user_pseudo_id” which is used to identify the unique user in Firebase, but you can use one workaround by using cloud function you can fetch all the “user_pseudo_id” at set user property against all the id.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Ankur Chitranshi
    August 21, 2019 11:58 pm

    very helpful post. I want to know if can we customise the dashboard so that we can see all events data rather than seeing only last 30 minute data

    Reply
    • Hi Ankur,

      you cannot customize the Firebase Dashboard, it shows the last 30 minutes of real-time data, but you can use the big query streaming insert to send real-time data in big queries dataset and link to the data studio for reports in real-time. It will take 24 hours to normalize the data after you can see all the event data.

      Reply
  • i understand firebase analytics event can trigger firebase function based on “log event” function. but can i only trigger the function when count reach to a certain value, say 1k?

    Reply
    • Hi Mayuran, the detailed answer to your query is
      – log event is not a function of Firebase it’s a method of Firebase Plugin that helps us to send the data in Firebase.
      – There is no such trigger available for sending an event after the count reach 1K.
      Let us know in case of any concerns.

      Reply

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