How to Track User Navigation Events in a React Application

How to Track User Navigation Events in a React Application

A scalable and maintainable strategy for tracking page navigation events in a React application.

Single-page and Multi-page Applications: What's the difference?

In virtually every website that is not an SPA, loading a new page requires completing a full request-response cycle between the client and the server. Whenever the user clicks a link, the browser sends an HTTP GET request to the server for the content the user has requested. In an SPA, however, the browser loads all of the resources it needs to deliver the full experience of the site on the first-page load.

After that, when the user navigates to a different page or requests resources that are not yet in the UI, SPAs leverage HTML5 APIs, AJAX, and the capabilities of modern browsers to only serve the new resources that aren't yet on the page while the rest of the content stays the same. This is especially useful in interfaces that repeatedly display new content as a user scrolls down a feed. Examples of such use cases in our day-to-day experience of the web are plentiful––think scrolling through new Tweets, looking through product results on Amazon, or checking your email. 

Analytics Tracking Challenges in SPAs

This method of dynamically presenting new content hands developers some challenges when it comes to collecting robust analytics. Traditionally, websites send user events to analytics tools via <script> or <link> tags that fire when the page loads, but this is not an option in an SPA if you want to track each occurrence of a user landing on a new page.

This is especially an issue with page view tracking, which is one of the most important data points to capture when building a picture of how your customers interact with your site.

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Disclaimer: Many points made in this post have been derived from discussions with various parties, but do not represent any individuals or organisations.