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Hotjar vs Mouseflow: which one is right for you?

Hotjar and Mouseflow are digital experience insights platforms, each providing users with a wealth of behavior analytics tools. Both platforms have similar functionality, but some crucial differences will affect which is right for you.

Last updated

15 Apr 2024

Reading time

18 min


What are the main differences between Hotjar and Mouseflow?

To see the main differences, we’ll compare Hotjar Observe (Heatmaps and Recordings) and Mouseflow plans that provide 500 daily sessions billed monthly. Because every Hotjar Observe plan—free or paid—comes standard with a free Ask (Surveys) and Engage (Interviews) plan, we’ll also include the free level of Ask and Engage for this comparison to maintain price parity. 

Considering these plans, Hotjar and Mouseflow differ in four areas: data storage, session sampling, Highlights dashboard, and user interviews.

Data storage

Data storage is the amount of time that information, such as recordings, is available in the platform. Mouseflow offers less storage than Hotjar on all plans below $259/month. For example, Mouseflow’s Free plan only gets you one month of storage, and a Starter plan only provides three months. Hotjar, on the other hand, offers 12 months of storage as standard across all our plans.

💡 Why does this matter?

Understanding a website’s performance is difficult without access to historical data. For websites with significant traffic fluctuations due to seasonality or users who run campaigns, historical data is extremely powerful in understanding what works and what doesn’t. Noticing differences in responses over time is especially helpful when using features such as Feedback.

Sampling vs. credits

Mouseflow plans provide a set amount of session-capture credits. Mouseflow captures all the sessions on your website until these credits run out, unless you configure your credit usage manually. 

Hotjar uses a sampling algorithm to ensure you capture sessions equally across the month.

#Hotjar uses a sampling algorithm
Hotjar uses a sampling algorithm

💡 Why does this matter?

Multiple Mouseflow users have expressed frustration at using all their session-capture credits before the month is over. This setting can be changed manually, but it requires the user to know how to spread their coverage, which can be difficult during unexpected surges in traffic or seasonal highs. 

Comparatively, Hotjar’s sampling ensures constant data capture, no matter your plan limit. You can see the percentage of sessions you capture through the traffic coverage widget at the top-right of your screen.

Form analytics

Mouseflow offers an analytics suite for any form on your website or product, allowing you to understand which fields have high drop-offs. You can replay sessions from visitors who abandoned or completed a form. 

While Hotjar does not offer this functionality, users can filter recordings by visitors who abandoned forms, submitted forms, or entered text on specific pages, which customers tell us is already plenty of functionality to spot UX issues in their forms and optimize for completions. Indeed, we had a more dedicated Forms tool a few years back, but we retired it as it was so rarely used.

💡 Why does this matter?

For customers who need a dedicated form analytics tool as a number-one priority, Mouseflow is the best option. This tool would be beneficial for companies with long submission forms that are the core of their website. For most others, Hotjar’s form interaction filters will be enough.

Highlights panel

Hotjar offers a Highlights panel where you can save all interesting snippets of recordings or hotspots from heatmaps in one place. These highlights can be grouped into collections and further filtered by author, status, date, and label (including bug, user confusion, and conversion). This feature is available on all plans. 

Although you can tag and group recordings in Mouseflow, they do not offer a dedicated Highlights panel.

#The Highlights panel in Hotjar
The Highlights panel in Hotjar

💡 Why does this matter?

One of the main priorities for anyone working on a user insights project is to get buy-in from stakeholders, such as engineers, managers, or designers. Collaboration features like Highlights make cross-functional tasks, like investigating and fixing a bug or evaluating a page redesign, significantly easier by getting the most relevant information to the right people with minimal effort.

In addition to Highlights, other collaborative features available on higher Hotjar plans, like Hotjar's Slack integration and Microsoft Teams integration, pushes critical insights from recordings, surveys, and feedback directly to teams in their chosen communication channels.

User research

With Engage, Hotjar is the only digital experience insights platform providing a user research suite. At the free level, Hotjar customers can recruit participants from their own user base, deploy screening questions to qualify respondents, and conduct interviews and user testing within the platform. 

At the paid level, Hotjar customers can recruit participants from Hotjar’s 200,000+ testers, run and observe interviews, create highlights, and get transcriptions of the interviews.

💡 Why does this matter?

User research is a spectrum: at one end is heatmaps, providing an overview of multiple users’ experiences; at the other is user interviews, letting you dig deep into one individual’s decision-making. 

Companies deploying user experience (UX) research when designing a product or website tend to increase revenue at twice the rate of their competitors. A user research tool gets you closer to fully understanding your audience and helps you build products and sites that meet their needs.

What are Hotjar and Mouseflow’s key tools and features?

For the purpose of this comparison, we’ll look at the main tools for user insights research. Hotjar and Mouseflow have much in common but differ in their approach to delivering value to users.

Hotjar and Mouseflow's key tools are:

  • Heatmaps

  • Recordings

  • Surveys and Feedback

Heatmaps: Hotjar vs. Mouseflow

Before we get into the weeds on heatmaps, we should outline the fundamental difference in Hotjar and Mouseflow’s approaches to heatmaps: Hotjar focuses on making heatmaps data more actionable, and Mouseflow focuses on delivering more data

Heatmap features: comparison

To illustrate the differences between Hotjar and Mouseflow’s heatmap tools, we’ll look at the three main heatmap features that differentiate these platforms. These features are:

  • Page performance insights in Hotjar

  • Highlights in Hotjar

  • Click data in Mouseflow

Hotjar’s heatmaps with page insights

Alongside your heatmaps in Hotjar, you’ll find a ton of information to evaluate a page’s performance. On a free plan, this panel would show the average time on page, drop-off rates, and average feedback score for the page.

On higher plans, this panel shows information like the number of rage clicks on a page, the u-turn rate for recorded sessions, and the total number of errors on a page.

#A Hotjar heatmap with page insights
A Hotjar heatmap with page insights

Mouseflow offers an expanded page info menu that contains insights like the number of visits, visit time, the average time to render, and the average time to engagement.

Hotjar’s heatmaps with highlights

Collaborating on analyzing a heatmap as a team can be challenging. Sharing insights usually involves sending a link to a heatmap and attaching your observations as notes in Slack or an email. This way of working quickly becomes hard to track when multiple people are analyzing the same heatmap for different reasons. 

Highlights in Hotjar is a feature that lets teams share findings easily and create consensus quickly. With Highlights, you can click on a hotspot, tag it with the appropriate label (such as frustration, bug, or success), and leave a comment for your team. 

When another Hotjar user checks out the heatmap, they can click to view all highlights on the page and immediately benefit from their colleagues' work. You can also file all related highlights into collections.

#Adding a highlight to a collection in Hotjar
Adding a highlight to a collection in Hotjar

Mouseflow’s advanced click data

A heatmaps feature Mouseflow provides (that Hotjar doesn’t) is advanced click data. In both Mouseflow and Hotjar, you can hover over an element on a heatmap, and see the click data for it. But in Mouseflow, this drop-down provides info on insights like hover-to-click rate, time-to-click, and hover time.

Mouseflow’s click-data details can help users understand the effectiveness of conversion pages and calls to action (CTAs). 

#Mouseflow’s click-data details
Mouseflow’s click-data details

Types of heatmaps: comparison

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of heatmaps: both Hotjar and Mouseflow have similar functionality and offer continuous heatmaps (meaning there’s no need to set them up, and they offer retroactive data). 

However, the types of heatmaps available differ between the two platforms. Clicks, scrolls, and movement are the core heatmaps most user insights professionals use daily. However, Mouseflow does come with a few extra options. 

Heatmap types available in Hotjar and Mouseflow

Mouseflow’s live heatmaps allow users to navigate through the site while the heatmap automatically updates as the content changes. This feature helps users understand heatmaps on pages with dynamic content, like drop-down menus or pop-ups. 

Hotjar addresses this problem with a retaker tool, which allows users to specify the exact combination of content they want to see on their heatmap (e.g. expanding a drop-down menu). Note: Hotjar tested a live heatmaps tool, but most users said they got more value from the retaker.

Geo heatmaps are generally used through quantitative web analytics tools like Google Analytics, as it simply shows which country users are coming from. Mouseflow’s attention heatmaps are a valuable snapshot to understand where users spend most of their time on a page. Hotjar addresses this with engagement zones in heatmaps, which combine click, move, and scroll in one simple view to show you the most appealing parts of a page. 

Types of heatmap filters: comparison

Both platforms have almost the same filter functionality beyond a free plan: Mouseflow offers all its filters on free plans, whereas Hotjar’s filters become available at entry-level pricing plans. 

Mouseflow and Hotjar both allow you to create audiences by saving filter combinations. You can create audience groups or segments in recordings, heatmaps, and the dashboard(s). 

There is some difference between which filters come pre-built and which need to be configured through custom events, but the same filters can be created in either Hotjar or Mouseflow by setting up custom tags/events. The only key difference is that Hotjar allows you to filter by users’ feedback score or Net Promoter Score® (NPS®).

Filter types available in Hotjar and Mouseflow

Recordings: Hotjar vs. Mouseflow 

Along with heatmaps, session recordings are some of the most valuable pieces of qualitative data you can use to improve a website or product. Again, Mouseflow and Hotjar have similar capabilities in this area, with a few key exceptions. To make this comparison, we’ll look at the recordings list and the recordings player, as Hotjar and Mouseflow have some differences.

Recordings list: comparison

Hotjar and Mouseflow offer a fairly similar dashboard experience. The same filters that are applied to heatmaps can be applied to the recordings list. 

Hotjar’s list of recordings focuses on making it easy to find relevant information, whereas Mouseflow’s list provides a little more information.

We briefly cover the main differences below:

Recordings dashboard features in Hotjar and Mouseflow

Hotjar’s engagement score

The engagement score aims to help users identify their most active visitors, giving users more context for their list of recordings and helping them quickly find relevant recordings. Engagement score is calculated by combining metrics like time on page, pages per session, and clicked elements.

#Hotjar’s Frustration and Engagement scores
Hotjar’s Frustration and Engagement scores

Mouseflow’s tags

Both Mouseflow and Hotjar automatically detect actions like u-turns, rage clicks, and feedback. Mouseflow attaches these tags to recordings for users to see in the dashboard. 

In the Hotjar dashboard, you can filter by these same variables, but users can only see highlight labels attached by other team members, not all the events. 

Mouseflow automatically detects a greater range of friction events, like click-error, speed-browsing, mouse-out, and mobility issues.

#Mouseflow’s friction events
Mouseflow’s friction events

Recordings player: comparison

Now we’re getting into the details, and this is where Hotjar’s focus on usability shines. Both companies offer a player with all the basic functionality, like playback speed and pause. One key difference is that Hotjar provides a single session recording for all the tabs and windows the user has visited within the account domain and subdomains. 

Hotjar is one of the only digital experience insights platforms delivering a high-fidelity multi-tab/multi-window experience. Most competitors divide sessions by tab, meaning users struggle to view the visitors’ actions in chronological order. Mouseflow cannot currently provide these as a single recording, so you may have one user session split across multiple recordings as they open different tabs or windows. 

Overall, Hotjar’s recordings player makes finding the functional parts of recording a lot easier and faster.

Recordings player features in Hotjar and Mouseflow

Hotjar’s recordings player

The Hotjar recordings player focuses on helping users get to actionable data quickly by making events visible while in the recordings player.

At the bottom of the playback window, the timeline (the horizontal bar) shows specific events during the session. Users can also view a list of events on the player's right-hand side and jump directly to that part of the recording. 

Here are just some of the events you can expect to see:

  • Visited new page

  • Opened new tab (or browser window)

  • Mouse click

  • Typing/changed field value

  • Resized window

  • Event triggered

  • Rage click or u-turn

  • Answered survey/feedback

Mouseflow does offer this functionality, but you can only navigate to an event by clicking on the frustration signal in the dashboard view, not the video timeline.

#Hotjar’s clickable video timeline
Hotjar’s clickable video timeline

Recording highlights and sharing

Hotjar has an in-built collaboration tool for recordings. Beyond the standard events listed above that Hotjar automatically detects, users can create clips of interesting moments in a recording (such as a conversion or a confusion signal) called highlights.

Highlights in Hotjar is a feature allowing users to add a highlight to a collection, provide notes, and mention other users. These tagged moments automatically create snippets of the recording, which you can download or share directly with a URL. 

Mouseflow allows users to add tags and comments to timelines, but these do not create share options or reduced recordings clips.

# Sharing a highlight in Hotjar
Sharing a highlight in Hotjar

Mouseflow’s recordings player

Mouseflow’s player provides basic functionality. A key on the left side of the recordings player explains the four types of activity appearing in the timeline: inactivity, clicks, form interactions, and movement. The player’s standout feature is that users can jump to specific pages in the recorded session using a drop-down of the recording’s URL path.

#Mouseflow’s recordings player
Mouseflow’s recordings player

Feedback and surveys: Hotjar vs. Mouseflow

Again, both platforms offer excellent survey tools. That said, Hotjar is clearly the more comprehensive tool for gathering user feedback, providing survey templates, a feedback widget, question logic, and the ability to share surveys via an external link.

Hotjar offers Surveys as a secondary product, which you can start on a free plan. Here’s a quick overview of Mouseflow and Hotjar’s survey options with a free plan.

A comparison of feedback and surveys on both platforms

Feedback widget

Hotjar’s feedback widget allows web visitors to respond to a page experience instantly using an emoji scale. The widget can either sit on the side of the screen or be embedded within the page. It’s generally used to measure average page feedback scores over time. 

Hotjar users find this helpful for measuring page performance, spotting bugs, and seeing how design changes impact the feedback score. Mouseflow offers an NPS survey that looks similar (uses emojis) but isn’t the same as the page feedback widget.

#The Hotjar’s feedback widget in action
The Hotjar’s feedback widget in action

Survey builder: comparison

Hotjar offers more survey options than Mouseflow, such as full-screen surveys or surveys that take the user to a dedicated URL. In addition, Hotjar provides the option to show the user a survey until they complete it. 

Hotjar and Mouseflow have similar survey ‘persistence’ options—both tools trigger a survey once for each user or show it for every visit. Mouseflow also offers pre-built options to target users based on browser language. This can also be configured in Hotjar but requires some additional setup through the Identify API

However, it could be argued that Hotjar has a more well-rounded survey builder, given its survey template gallery, question logic, and variety of survey types.

A comparison of Hotjar and Mouseflow’s survey builders

Survey triggers

Both Mouseflow and Hotjar let users change when surveys appear or are ‘triggered’ based on some basic criteria. Mouseflow offers rage clicks and click errors as pre-built triggers, whereas Hotjar requires users to create custom events to do this.

Survey triggers available in Hotjar and Mouseflow

Question types and logic

Mouseflow and Hotjar’s survey builders have some critical differences. For one, Hotjar offers an email collection option that only accepts correctly formatted email addresses, helping to reduce false submissions.

The Hotjar Surveys tool also lets users build different question paths depending on responders' answers, commonly referred to as survey logic. This feature is essential for asking product- or experience-specific questions.

#Building a survey in Hotjar
Building a survey in Hotjar

Survey and feedback notifications

Hotjar offers survey or feedback submission notifications via email, Slack, and Microsoft Teams. Sending notifications to messaging channels is an excellent way to get visibility on incoming customer feedback and help team members spot problems fast. 

To keep notifications relevant, you can configure them to send only when a user has replied to certain questions. Emails are great for single users, but not scalable for teams, and often, users report that notifications just ‘clutter’ their inboxes. 

Mouseflow only offers email notifications, but it does let you trigger notifications when the visitor selects a specific answer.

Survey dashboard and analysis

Hotjar and Mouseflow both have survey dashboards where you can view active and complete surveys. From the dashboard, users can delve into each survey to gather information on completion rates and impressions, and see the survey results by question. 

Both platforms let you jump from a survey response to the corresponding session recording for a better understanding of why a respondent gave the answer they did. Hotjar allows you to search open text responses by keyword using rules like ‘contains’ or ‘does not contain’; Mouseflow doesn’t. 

However, there are very few functional differences in the survey dashboards. For example, Hotjar and Mouseflow provide dedicated NPS analysis pages, particularly useful for understanding ongoing NPS over time and visualizing results.

#The NPS analysis page in Hotjar
The NPS analysis page in Hotjar

Hotjar’s enterprise tools

For growing teams who want to combine quantitative and qualitative data, Hotjar offers more tools and capabilities. At the enterprise level, the Hotjar platform goes beyond heatmaps and recordings, providing issue-finding and data aggregation tools.

Data aggregation is essential for larger companies who need a more holistic view of their site’s performance, and tools like Funnels and Trends help deliver that big picture. 

With Trends, Hotjar users can track different variables, like the frequency of frustration signals, key events, or spikes in errors. Mouseflow and Hotjar both offer funnels tools; however, only Hotjar provides a flexible overview tool like Trends.

Console tracking

Errors can result in a serious loss in revenue, customer satisfaction, and brand reputation. Because of this, most teams make finding, investigating, and fixing errors a top priority. 

Hotjar’s console tracking tool tracks JavaScript errors for recorded sessions. Users can filter recordings by error type and jump straight to the corresponding recording to find the cause quickly. Also, if used in conjunction with Trends, Hotjar users can track different error types over time and by page. Mouseflow doesn’t currently offer any tool with this capability beyond its tracking of clicks that occur around errors (“error clicks”).

#Grab some popcorn and view errors in the console while watching Recordings
Grab some popcorn and view errors in the console while watching Recordings

When is Hotjar a good fit?

Both tools are very well regarded in the industry, so we’ll base our suggestions for when Hotjar is and isn’t a good fit on our research and users' opinions.

Hotjar isn’t a good fit for

  • Small businesses looking for detailed form analytics: Hotjar doesn’t offer this feature, and Mouseflow’s form analytics is some of the best in the industry

  • Individuals looking for a free plan with a full suite of filters: users who don’t want to upgrade their plan should consider alternatives to Hotjar. Mouseflow has good filters available for basic actions on a free plan. 

Hotjar is a good fit for

  • Medium or large business with a team working on user insights: Hotjar’s team-focused features, like Highlights, makes sharing and discovering others’ work more accessible, speeding up improvements to a site or product

  • Users needing a more sophisticated survey tool: as some Mouseflow users have stated, Hotjar may be the better option for people who want a greater range of survey types or need surveys with survey logic

  • Users looking for an advanced tool with an intuitive design: multiple users stated in reviews that they felt the UX was lacking and the tool was not sufficiently advanced for their needs

  • Users who want to compare long-term data: from free plans up to the Business level, Hotjar offers 12 months of data storage as standard. Mouseflow reserves 12 months of data storage for its enterprise-level packages.

Hotjar gives you room to grow

It’s fair to say that at the free level, Mouseflow has a slight edge in the form of more available features. However, for cross-functional teams and growing businesses, Hotjar is the best long-term solution. 

Hotjar provides greater capabilities on most paid plans, focuses on delivering actionable data, and makes sharing insights easy. It also provides a solution for teams who want to deepen their research and conduct user interviews: Hotjar Engage lets you recruit participants and conduct user interviews directly within the platform, setting our platform apart from most others in the industry.

Ultimately, the advantage of picking Hotjar is that you can keep your quantitative and qualitative data in one place, so you can understand the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind user decisions.

Hotjar is the better long-term choice, given the relative parity of pricing and the wealth of upgrade options for the taking. As your business grows, so will your digital experience insights capabilities—and your empathy for the people who matter most: your users.

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