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I got a feeling a client is going to ask me to implement a counter to show how many visitors visited the site. To me it looks very unprofessional but the next question the client is going to ask will be 'why?'.

So what's a good reason to not implement this besides "it's unprofessional".

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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

A visible web counter is useless information for visitors. Why would they care exactly how many people visited a page? The user didn't come to the page to find out how many visitors it has. Counters are usually out of context, too. If you see a page has had 2,300 visitors, what does that mean? 2,300 visitors today? This week? Since 1996?

Furthermore, it does not look good on a company if it appears very few people are visiting their website. Why would you broadcast that statistic?

However, that's not to say visitor numbers are completely irrelevant. A list of 'most popular articles,' for example, is a useful feature. But most users won't care if those pages have 500 visitors or 5 million.

And of course, some kind of statistics visible to only the site owners (like Google Analytics) is vital.

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Thanks, I replied that I was going to add Google Analytics but their request sounded more in the direction of a web counters so thought I would prepare myself for the question. –  Pickels Oct 7 '10 at 15:02
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I would instead talk up the benefits of integrating analytics from a third party (google analytics, for instance). Show them all the metrics they'll be getting other than just a simple user count and explain to them that these stats are all kept off the front end of the website. A little redirection can't hurt.

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I'd ask what they plan to use it for. If it is for their own visitor tracking knowledge, explain there are plenty of more accurate tools (such as Google analytics mentioned above) that can also give you much more detail.

If it's to show off how much traffic their site gets, I'd suggest showing them sites like compete.com so they can see how much traffic they get compared to competitors.

If it's because they think it looks cool... well... they probably won't listen to reason.

On a side note if they want you to add one of the free hit counters I'd check it to make sure it's not injecting hidden links. Giving away free software (such as hit counters) that have a hidden link in the embed code is an easy way for spammers to build links to their websites.

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It's a restaurant and I have feeling one of the younger employees told them that it's the latest thing in web technologies. So I am fearing the cool factor here. –  Pickels Oct 7 '10 at 16:25
    
@Pickels "latest thing in web technologies" - that's a laugh. The younger employee is sort of correct: there were people who thought hit counters were cool when they WERE the latest thing in web technologies. But that moment was WAY, WAY back when CERN added CGI support to their web server back in the carboniferous era of the web when everyone was trying out the hot new graphical browser called NCSA Mosaic! –  Stephen C. Steel Oct 7 '10 at 17:40
    
You could steer them toward similar things that add interactivity (if you can call a hit counter interactive) but are better such as reviews on yelp, or tips from foursquare users, or even latest tweets surely the younger employee would be all over anything twitter. –  Joshak Oct 7 '10 at 17:58
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The traditional personal homepage counter is unprofessional, but a lot of large sites and commercial services use counters to show how popular they are (yes, it's the bandwagon fallacy, but it works).

Usually, it's something like

*Over 2500 design companies have signed up for our wireframing service.*
[logos of the biggest companies]

*278,046 users are currently signed on*

*56,218 galleries hosted.*

*200,000 videos posted.*

etc.

The first example shows that a service/product is endorsed by many in the industry, which could pique the visitor's interest and inspire confidence. The second would be useful on a social network, since social networks are useless unless they're popular. The third and forth show that a service is both popular and robust, as well as showing off how much content the site has.

Plain traffic statistics generally aren't worth advertising, but if your application has just grown from a small open beta to having 5 million hits a day, then you may want to celebrate that on your homepage for a few weeks.

One of the few exceptions is if your website is for a cause. Then a hit counter may be relevant and interesting to people. It's a good measure of how much support and interest the cause is getting.

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