Complete Guide to Naming Events in Analytics Platforms

The most critical step of setting analytics for non-tech people is naming the actions on app or website right. If you screw here, you not only have to repeat this step again but risk making a dubious decision for business based on screwed data. Furthermore, still many tools don’t provide an option to rename the event leading to a loss of historical data.

Common Taxonomy Mistakes 

Some of the common mistakes while naming includes:

  • Ignoring the case-sensitive aspect of Google Analytics, Firebase, and other third-party analytics tools
  • Ignoring the hierarchy of events. Every third party tool as two sets of actions – primary, generally called ‘events‘ and secondary, generally called ‘properties‘, and these events need to be named appropriately
  • Creating a huge number of primary events, and not making much use of secondary events feature
  • Not thinking from funnel perspective, and hence defining too many events, but risking missing the key ones
  • Not defining user-specific properties, and hence missing out on customer segment data even when every third-party analytics tool comes with user-specific properties
  • Not keeping a record of the taxonomy of events or making changes to event names without updating in the central repository for everyone’s knowledge

When Social Capital partner Ashley Carroll spoke on behalf of DocuSign regarding events in analytics, she used following meme:

Naming event in Mixpanel

Step by step guide to Taxonomy:

1. Don’t measure every event – scarcity is good

You don’t need to measure every event, but only those which are actionable. As a principle, track only those events rise and fall of numbers of which will be a basis for your action. For instance, consider a fitness app which provides user facility to look at his activity history. Now tracking whether

For instance, consider a fitness app which provides the user with a facility to look at his activity history. Now tracking whether the user is “scrolling down” on the profile to check history doesn’t make much sense. Because there no action associated with the following 2 cases:

  • Low Usage of Feature: As this feature is sort of basic hygiene and available in all fitness app, even if the usage is low, you can’t do away with this feature
  • High Usage of Feature: Then also you can’t do much to improve the profile, and it anyway will not lead to significant action

2.What events to track

First, decide what user actions are critical to you. Then decide the chain of the event leading to that action. We call it the ‘Funnel Approach‘.

Here is an example of conversion funnel:

Naming Convention Best Practices For Events in Analytics Platforms

Once you decide the broad events based on the required funnel, then determine what secondary information you will need to deep-dive to find the reason increase or decrease of major event values from expectation. These secondary events are called by different in different tools – parameters (in Firebase), properties (in Mixpanel or Google Analytics) etc.

3. Create a taxonomy implementation sheet

It’s extremely important to create an implementation sheet. This will be helpful in keeping every team on the same page and avoiding confusion.

Here is an example of the implementation sheet for Mixpanel and Firebase.

Mixpanel Implementation Sheet

Firebase Implementation Sheet

Sample Tracking Plan – ECommerce

Sample Tracking Plan – Social

You can similarly create a sheet of different third-party tools.

To avoid the confusion of upper-case and lower-case, and other similar confusion, here are some thumb rule while naming the event

  1. Always use lowercase letters
  2. Use “-” instead of space
  3. You can use number only if it makes absolute sense. Don’t ever name it purhcase_step_1. That would be really confusing to other team members
  4. Don’t abbreviate unnecessarily. For example “add_cart” will be preferred to “adcrt”
  5. Avoid proposition. Use only present tense. For example “add_cart” will be preferred “added_to_cart” and “stop_video” preferred to “stopped_video”

4. Understand the different type of events

In some third-party tools, there are different types of events, which have different tracking functionalities.

For example, in Mixpanel, apart from event and properties, there are user properties, applied to user related attributes and super properties, applied to all events and properties. These events help you dissect the events and funnel even more. So make use these featured for better dissection.

In Firebase, you have user properties apart from events and parameters. First, these attributes help in user segmentation. Second, these attributes help in dissecting funnel elements even further.

5. Always keep the implementation sheet updated

It’s could be a huge source of confusion if the implementation sheet is not updated regularly. In a worst case, it might be lead to a disastrous decision. In ideal, there should be a restriction on who could make a change to the names of events and one does should have the responsibility to update on the sheet.

In ideal, there should be a restriction on who could make a change to the names of events and one does should have the responsibility to update on the sheet.

Now, there is also a facility is a lot of third party tools to track events without making changes in code. I have used this feature in Mixpanel. This feature significantly reduces our dependence on developers.

6. Understand the technical aspects of implementation

It’s important for even people other than the developer to understand the technical aspect of implementation. Often it’s tough for developers to figure the glitches in the implementation of the code, which is fairly straightforward in this case if understand the events, properties, and user properties.

Most of the analytics platform connects the application or website through the token. In order to install the analytics platform’s javascript library, you have to insert the code snippet provided by the analytics service provided in <head> and </head> tags.

For the case of Mixpanel, the even is tracked when mixpanel.track() function is called. This is how a function is called in javascript:

function name(arguments);

Here is an example of a JavaScript track call in Mixpanel:

  mixpanel.track("Added to Cart", { 
    "Product Name": "Notebook", 
    "Brand": "Classic"

The arguments of the function are contained within the parentheses of the mixpanel.track() function. The first value, “Added to Cart”, is the event title. This will be the title of all events that occur whenever this function executes. The values contained within the curly brackets are the event properties tied to the event – Product Name and Brand.

I hope this answers all your questions. In case, you have any queries, please ask in the comment.


About the author

Product Manager at Google | Kellogg MBA '20 | IIT Delhi Graduate

I am passionate about product management, startup, and fitness not in any particular order.


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