SiteMeter botches upgrade, rolls it back

The Web usage tracking service Sitemeter has rolled back an upgrade, saying it pushed it out without enough testing.

SiteMeter last weekend abruptly scrapped a major and eagerly awaited upgrade to its popular service, which publishers use to track visits to their sites.

SiteMeter decided to roll back its new version on Sunday, shortly after pushing it out, due to performance problems and loud complaints from publishers.

"Our intention is and has always been to offer you ... better tools and more accurate data. Obviously we fell short of this," the company wrote in its official blog in a posting titled "Our Apologies."

The company acknowledged in that posting that it jumped the gun when it decided to go live with the new version because it hadn't conducted enough beta testing.

"We apologize for the botched rollout and will do our best to make sure the next time we do this it has your full support and blessing," the blog posting reads.

Mary Shelton, who uses SiteMeter to track visitors to her blog, is one of many publishers who disliked the service's new version.

The user interface was radically altered and made very confusing, she said in an e-mail interview. "I didn't know what any of it represented. It was just a bunch of charts and numbers," she said, echoing a complaint made by other publishers on their blogs.

The new version also made the site much slower, and pages took unreasonably long to load, she said. Shelton hopes that SiteMeter will let its users thoroughly test the upgrade before releasing it again.

"The whole experience was frustrating when it didn't have to be. All they had to do was to ask their customers to test their product in a beta version perhaps and get lots of feedback from those who used it," she said.

"What they did instead was bombard people with a bunch of new changes which weren't adequately tested ahead of time and that was not the right decision," she added.

In the blog Below the Beltway, Doug Mataconis called SiteMeter's upgrade a "dumb design" that, in his view, seemed driven by a misguided desire to match Google's competing Analytics service.

"All I want in a site tracker is something that's easy to read and something that tells me who's visiting the site and what they're looking at. It's possible that the new version of SiteMeter does that, but they've hidden it behind so many hard to navigate menus that their service is pretty close to being useless," he wrote.

Last month, SiteMeter's widget for tracking visits to Web sites went haywire and rendered many pages unviewable via Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

At the time, SiteMeter admitted that it caused the problem, which affected versions 6 and 7 of IE, while updating its back-end software.

In addition to preventing pages from loading, the widget made it impossible for Web publishers using those versions of IE to access and view their SiteMeter stats.

SiteMeter, which has free and fee-based options for its service, didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

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