You don't have to require users to sign in. Put a cookie on their browser that is a user id. Store the id in a table. You will have to have some kind of logging for each page delivered by the site. A simple table with userid and pageid and maybe time should do it. Then a 3rd table to map pageid's to page URLs.
Now you have the required data. You can then write all kinds of cool reports on it.
If you are simply tracking users through your website per visit why not just use an IP and user agent combination? I know the convention for most applications is cookie tracking, but it really wouldn't be that hard to track via the above and you would be able to get the info on people who have there cookies turned off.
Just some grammar stuff
Edited by: littleman
The IP address/user agent idea will work if you are only interested in information regarding a single visit. Every time someone connects to the internet, they get a different IP address (mostly). You will not be able to track return users by this method.
As for cookies being turned off... we have seen a VERY low percentage of users of our sites that turn off cookies. We still track these users BTW using a session variable or by passing the userid in the URL.
W4an, yeah we are on the same page. I'm just kind of surprised by how little non-cookie based tracking is used in the main stream.
I could see a per visit tracking script being very useful for a site that is not tied into a database.
ok erm thanks guys, Im really new to this whole dynamic tracking users thing im going to put in a PHP database soon is the cookie tracking thing a PHP script that stores the users in a database? Im assuming you can do this sort of stuff with either cgi/php/asp??
I recently added cookie tracking to one of my sites and it was relatively easy to add on top of the system I allready have, but of course this depends on the system you are building, I guess you will have a head start because you are allready thinking about it :-)
A couple of advantages to cookie tracking,
* you can clearly see the progress of a particular visitor through the site whereas otherwise if a few people are browsing simultaneously it is not so clear.
* Proxies, a number of people use proxies and occasionally they may come from one address to see a page, but the next page they come from a different proxy. Cookies help you confirm its really the same person.
* Repeat visits, you can get the warm glow from seeing someone come back to your site a few days/weeks later.
At the risk of promo's, anyone got anything "off the shelf" designed for cookie tracking? (other than those 8-10k packages)...
Yes, page-worm. Nasty little thing, invented by the US government to track emails and websites. You place the worm on your site, a user goes to your site and when he leaves the worm will follow him. It will tell you exactly where they will go, any passwords or usernames he/she uses etc. At the moment it is illegal for you to have it.