The first thing that sets Woopra apart from Google Analytics is that it is a desktop application. This is both a blessing and a curse.
One blessing provided by the desktop is the ability to stream live results to the application. You can see users moving around the site, watch as they click between pages and get detailed feedback on their location, history and computer configuration.
Being able to watch users interact with your website in real time is hugely enlightening and tells you much more than Analytics can.
Of course it would be possible to stream live to a website using Flash or AJAX but I am not aware of a stats package that does this.
A rich user interface
Another benefit of being a desktop application is the smoothness and richness of the user experience. From the constantly updating animated map to the interactive graphs and charts, there is something very immediate about the way Woopra works.
Not only can you watch users move around your site it is also possible to interact with them in much the same way as Live Person works.
At any point you can select a user who is browsing your site and choose to "start a conversation". The user sees your message in the form of an instant messaging alert.
I can see real potential in this, especially on ecommerce sites where users so easily abandon baskets. Being able to provide on-site customer support could be hugely beneficial. In fact it is a subject Iwrote about back in 2004 and I still believe it is an under utilised technology.
Of course it could be horribly abused and terribly intrusive. However, it is an invaluable tool for some audiences such as the elderly or those with less online experience who require interactive help.
The curse of the desktop
Woopra is not without its problems. The desktop application is built in Java, which should ensure cross platform compatibility. However installation on a mac was incredibly painful, involving the use of a beta version of Java and fiddling with preference panes. I would hope things were not so bad for windows users.
Another problem with Woopra is that it is currently in closed beta. Fortunately getting hold of an invite is not too difficult. I received mine in a couple of weeks just by using their online application form.
Woopra is now available to anybody who wishes to signup and is entirely free.
So is Woopra the perfect analytics tool? Probably not. However, I have abandoned Google Analytics for the time being in favour of the more interactive, rich environment of Woopra.