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10 ways to use Hotjar for user-centric website development

As a busy web developer, you have feature requests and bug reports coming in from multiple directions. So how do you get to the heart of issues quickly—and prioritize which ones you should solve next?

Last updated

31 Jul 2023

Reading time

10 min


Hotjar’s digital experience insights help you uncover both common website problems and less obvious issues users encounter but don’t report. And with our collaborative features, you can easily share your findings with colleagues via Slack, Jira, Zapier, and more.

Keep reading for a masterclass in how to streamline and speed up your team’s site development process with Hotjar—and make the most impactful changes.

See website issues through your users’ eyes

Hotjar Recordings shows you exactly what each user saw, so you can find and fix bugs in no time at all.

Prioritizing the right changes: a never-ending challenge for web developers

As a web developer, you play a vital role in continually improving your website for customers. Building websites iteratively lets you factor in customer feedback to develop features and functionality around user needs.

However, building in iterations also means making difficult decisions about which features and bug fixes to prioritize. When you have a never-ending list of things you could be working on, how do you decide which tasks are most important?

Product experience insights help you make better development decisions 

Hotjar gives you actionable insights about website or product issues, so you can:

All this adds up to having more control over your to-do list—and creating a customer-centric culture in your team.

10 ways to use Hotjar for user-led website development

Below, we’ve laid out ten ways Hotjar can help you in the approximate order you’d follow when making development decisions.

1. Find out where users encounter issues

When something goes wrong on your website or app, users won’t always tell you about it. Hotjar’s user analysis tools help you find ‘hidden’ issues in two different ways.

Ask for user feedback

With the Hotjar Feedback tool, you can ask users directly how they experienced a specific page on your site via an unobtrusive widget (there it is, that red tag on the right of your screen! 👉). 

Users can quickly rate their experience on a scale of 1–5. But even better, Feedback gives users the option to write a comment or highlight the part of your page where something went wrong.

#No more guessing: gather user feedback on any page to track user sentiment and comments
No more guessing: gather user feedback on any page to track user sentiment and comments

💡 Pro tip: Hotjar also lets you track the average feedback across your site, so you can easily identify which pages get the lowest scores and investigate why.

Find signs of struggle

Hotjar notices signs of user frustration on your site by tracking important behaviors, including

  • Rage clicks, where users repeatedly click on an element or in an area (often indicating frustration)

  • U-turns, where users navigate to a page and then quickly return to their previous one (suggesting they’re lost or confused)

  • Negative feedback scores indicating that users are having poor experiences on certain parts of your site

With Hotjar, you can use this data to view related session recordings that might reveal a user encountering bugs or issues.

💭 Did you know?

Each recording has a frustration score indicating how many of these behaviors Hotjar noticed.

Frustration scores help you quickly find recordings that are likely to show how users struggle on your website

2. See where users drop off

Ideally, you want to provide the smoothest customer journey possible on your website. But high drop-off rates often suggest that users can’t complete their goals on a specific page—potentially indicating a bug or UX issue.

Hotjar Funnels gives you a handy visualization that pinpoints exactly where users drop off. Once you’re viewing your funnel, click the play icon to view the related recordings showing where (and potentially why) drop-offs occur.

#Visualizations in Hotjar Funnels show how many users drop off between funnel stages
Visualizations in Hotjar Funnels show how many users drop off between funnel stages

💡 Pro tip: combine Funnels with Hotjar Heatmaps to understand user behavior on pages with the highest drop-offs. View Rage Click maps to see areas of the page causing frustration and investigate further.

An example of a Rage Click heatmap on Hotjar’s pricing page

3. Set up surveys to find the reasons behind drop-offs

Sometimes, the best way to find out what’s going wrong is to ask. With Hotjar, you can launch exit intent surveys that appear as users close the page or tab. Use this survey to find out why users leave and what you could do to make them stay.

#Find out why users don’t stick around with an exit intent survey
Find out why users don’t stick around with an exit intent survey

Review your survey answers to see if users report issues with your website’s display or functionality. You can organize survey responses by page, country, browser device, and much more. Plus, with our bank of ready-made survey templates, you can create your first Hotjar survey in minutes.

Have you tried Hotjar AI? 🤖

Setting up a survey is easier than ever before with Hotjar AI for Surveys.

Simply tell our AI-powered survey generator your research goal, then sit back as it creates the perfect survey for you, summarizes your findings, and gives you a list of next steps.

4. Take a closer look at what’s happening on problematic pages

In the previous steps, you identified pages where users drop off or show signs of frustration. Now, use Hotjar to learn more about what’s happening in two ways.

Use Heatmaps to get an overview of common behaviors 

Heatmaps show you an aggregated view of where users click or tap (click maps), scroll (scroll maps), or move their mouse (move maps). Use them to find out if users

  • Repeatedly click on a non-clickable item

  • Move their mouse to a navigation element, like a search bar or menu

  • Scroll to and from forms and drop-down menus

If users frequently do these actions before exiting, there’s a good chance they’re encountering errors.

💡 Pro tip: a new type of heatmap, Engagement Zones, combines click, scroll, and move data in a single view, so you can see areas of high and low engagement on your most important pages.

An example of an Engagement Zones map in Hotjar Heatmaps, where the darker tiles indicate areas of high engagement

View Recordings to see what users saw

Recordings are video-like reconstructions that let you replay an individual user’s journey. You’ll see everything they saw in real time—including malfunctioning site elements.

#Session recordings in Hotjar show every click, scroll, tap or mouse movement the user made
Session recordings in Hotjar show every click, scroll, tap or mouse movement the user made

Hotjar reveals what numbers don’t. Funnels helped me identify where in the customer journey people drop off. Recorded user sessions let me understand what people see when they arrive on our website—what they click and what they don’t click. Heatmaps helped me identify where they spend most of their time and assess if they should be spending time there or not.

Piriya Kantong
Senior Online Marketing Analyst, Zenprint

💭 Did you know? 

With Filters in Hotjar, you can sort recordings by the page users exit from, devices they use, and much, much more. Combine filters with advanced segmenting options using Events and User Attributes to find relevant recordings in a flash.

5. Get clarity on bug reports and support tickets

While some customers are awesome enough to let you know about issues they encounter, their reports aren’t always clear. A user may write a comment like, "After I clicked the button, nothing happened!"—leaving you wondering which of your buttons they clicked.

In these scenarios, you’ll frequently need to request more information about their devices and activity. This can be a time-consuming process, especially if you’re not talking to the user directly. 

Replay the user’s journey to see what they saw

With Hotjar, you can quickly find the recording of a specific user’s journey and take a closer look at what happened. For busy developers, this has multiple advantages:

  • You don’t need to go back and forth asking the user for more information

  • You can see what the user did before the issue occurred, and what the issue itself looked like on their screen

  • If their issue turns out to be a bug, you can share the recording with your team to help with debugging

This makes the process of investigating bug reports faster—especially ones that involve rare or hard-to-replicate use cases of your product.

💡 Pro tip: there are two ways to find the user’s recording to get more context.

  • If you have the individual’s user ID number, leverage User Attributes in Hotjar to bring up a list of only their recordings

  • Use filters to find recordings that correspond with the user’s profile and activity—for example, by filtering for date, page, device, and location

Filters in Hotjar help you home in on the recordings most crucial to your website development

Apply multiple Hotjar filters to find the recordings you need, then save your favorite filters as an audience segment.

6. Uncover issues with forms and search bars

While forms and search bars are vital for many customer journeys, it’s not always obvious when they have an issue. If your form validation isn’t working, users will have problems filling in forms correctly—but they won’t know something is missing.

With Hotjar you can:

  • Use heatmaps to determine if users frequently click on search bars, forms, and form elements

  • View recordings from users who interacted with forms and search bars to see if they encountered any issues

Hotjar censors secure data (like credit card details), so you can identify problems while being fully compliant with privacy laws.

Hotjar and Audiense: restoring lost conversions

Audiense is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company in the MarTech space that allows potential customers to trial its product through their website.

After noticing a sudden drop-off in conversions on a key sign-up page, Audiense’s product team used the Hotjar Recordings tool to observe individual users in action.

They quickly discovered the password validator feature on their sign-up form was broken. Within hours, developers fixed the problem, bringing conversions back to life.

#A broken feature causing massive drop-offs
A broken feature causing massive drop-offs

Audiense regularly uses Hotjar to get more insights into its users' challenges and to confirm the impact of its development team's changes.

“Hotjar helps us empathize with our users. It reminds us that there are real human beings on the other end. It also confirms that our work as a product development team has an impact, and is making our customers' lives easier.”

Juan Fernandez, Head of Product at Audiense

👉 Read the full case study

7. Zero in on responsiveness and browser compatibility issues

Even when testing your website on different devices, you won’t always catch every issue. Hotjar Recordings can help you spot when users experience display issues on older browsers or specific devices.

  • Use Funnels to identify pages with high drop-off rates (as discussed in step one ⬆️)

  • From the Recordings dashboard, create a filter for journeys that exited from that page

  • Ensure you have ‘Device’ or ‘Browser’ selected in the Select columns menu, then click the top of the column to sort your recordings by device or browser

#The Select columns menu in the Hotjar Recordings dashboard
The Select columns menu in the Hotjar Recordings dashboard

You now have a list of recordings from users who exited from a page with a high drop-off rate. Scan through the list to look for patterns—are you seeing lots of entries for a specific device? 

Click to view recordings related to any older browsers or devices you haven’t tested on previously. If the page isn't displaying properly for the user, you’ll see it in their journey’s recording.

8. Track JavaScript errors as you iterate your website

JavaScript errors aren’t always harmful to your website, but when they affect rendering or site functionality, it can be a major problem for your users. 

Luckily, Hotjar’s console tracking feature tracks JavaScript errors so you can assess their severity, fix them more efficiently, and assess the impact of your changes. Recordings also enable developers to go back and investigate which environments caused errors in the past.

If you’ve enabled Hotjar to track JavaScript errors, you can easily find when and where they’re occurring:

  • Visit your Recordings dashboard

  • Click on the ‘Error’ filter

  • Create a filter for JavaScript errors

#Hotjar gives you multiple options for filtering your user behavior data
Hotjar gives you multiple options for filtering your user behavior data

You will now have a list of recordings that feature JavaScript errors. As you play back the recordings, you’ll see the error codes in the Recordings console above the playback timeline.

#Select the console view to see JavaScript errors when reviewing recordings
Select the console view to see JavaScript errors when reviewing recordings

Finally, use Hotjar Trends to track JavaScript errors over time in a helpful visualization. Track errors for an individual page or your whole site to see if your fixes reduce them.

#Trends lets you visualize changes in JavaScript errors (or user behaviors) over time
Trends lets you visualize changes in JavaScript errors (or user behaviors) over time

💭 Did you know?

Trends also visualizes other user behaviors over time—like when users click your call-to-action button or unsubscribe. Use Events to track the behaviors you’re interested in, then plot a graph in Trends to see how they change with each website iteration.

9. Share findings with colleagues to prioritize fixes

After identifying bugs and issues, it’s time to bring your team in to work together on fixes. Hotjar gives you several handy ways to organize and share data.

Create highlights of your recordings

When you want to show important moments you found in recordings, create short video clips called highlights to share with your team. Label clips with a ‘🐞’ icon for your colleagues to see the exact moments users encountered a bug, without having to watch complete user journeys (they’ll love you for it).

Organize Hotjar data into categories for easy reference

When reviewing Hotjar data, save highlights into themed folders using Collections. You can then view the entire dataset with a click when analyzing data.

#When creating a highlight, you can also add comments or label icons
When creating a highlight, you can also add comments or label icons

Share links to your Hotjar data

Easily generate clickable links to specific collections, highlights, recordings, and more—perfect for sharing data in Slack channels, emails, and Jira tickets.

💭 Did you know?

Hotjar integrates with loads of tools you already use for collaboration. For instance, use our Zapier integration to send negative feedback to a Miro board. Or integrate Hotjar with Jira to create Jira issues directly from Hotjar, with links to your recordings and console errors. Easy!

Get Hotjar data sent directly to your Slack channel

Set up our Slack integration to get relevant Hotjar data sent directly to Slack the second it comes in. For instance, tell Hotjar to send any negative feedback customers submit to a dedicated Slack channel so everyone who should see it does—and fixes happen faster.

Hotjar, Slack, and Hussle: understanding customer pains 

Hussle is an online marketplace for gyms and spas. As part of its efforts to continually improve its website, Hussle uses Hotjar to gather insights into why customers leave.

When customers cancel their subscriptions, Hotjar enables Hussle to present an exit intent survey asking why they left.

Hussle also reviews recordings that include rage clicks, using the Hotjar-Slack integration to forward them to a dedicated Slack channel—the aptly named #peoplehavingabadtimeonhotjar.

“Without Hotjar, it would take me at least two weeks to find the issue—and that’s assuming I find it in the first place. With Hotjar, we found the issue last Wednesday, and we’ve already got a solution ready to publish in development on Friday.”

Luke Calton, Product Lead at Hussle

👉 Read the full story

10. Recruit the right usability testing participants 

When you’re getting ready to launch the next iteration of your site, getting feedback from real users is vital. But finding the right usability testing participants can be time-consuming and complex—unless you’re using Hotjar!

Hotjar Engage, our user interviews product, lets you tap into our network of 200,000+ participants from a range of demographics. Engage automatically screens participants and books in testing sessions around your schedule—all you have to do is show up.

#Set up a usability testing session in minutes with Hotjar Engage
Set up a usability testing session in minutes with Hotjar Engage

With Engage, you can easily create highlight videos from the session and leave comments for colleagues indicating where you saw bugs and issues.

Understand the value of your development decisions

To serve your end-users well, you need to prioritize fixes and improvements based on what will have the greatest impact for them. But making those decisions can be challenging—especially if you don’t understand what users are truly experiencing.

With Hotjar, you can accelerate your prioritization and debugging processes by getting fast, actionable insights into what users see and do. And because Hotjar facilitates collaboration with colleagues, you can make impactful improvements faster—and give users the fantastic experiences they deserve.

Get the data you need to improve user experiences

View user journeys, gather user feedback, track behavior trends, and run user interviews—all from a single platform.

FAQs about Hotjar for site development

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