session replay tools

Top 5 session replay tools for analyzing user behavior

November 13, 2020 by Hotjar team

If you’re a business selling online, it’s important to create a website experience your users will love. A poor user experience or frustrating customer journey can negatively affect your site’s conversion rate, and ultimately your revenue.

But how do you identify the issues that are causing problems on your site—issues like a confusing design, unclear calls to action (CTA), and blockers like bugs or broken page elements?

Tools like Google Analytics (GA) can help you identify problematic traffic trends on your website, like unusually high bounce rates or a high exit rate from your sales funnel. However, GA can’t tell you why users are bouncing or exiting from your site.

To fully understand how users are experiencing your site and learn how to give them the best experience possible, you need to take a closer look at user behavior, which is where session replay tools come in.

In this piece, we share our favorite session replay tools with you, plus some guidance on choosing the right one. We cover:

Now, let’s start with the basics:

What is a session replay?

A session replay, also known as a session recording, is a rendering of a user's journey through your website. Session replays show you what individual users saw and how they experienced your site—including their clicks, page scrolls, and mouse movements.

Session replays help product teams, UX teams, and conversion rate optimizers understand how users experience their site from page to page. These insights make it easier to fix issues, optimize the user experience (UX), and improve conversion rates.

There are several session replay tools out there to choose from, but we want to make this easy on you—so here’s a list to help you decide which replay tool will best suit your needs:

5 best session replay tools

1. Hotjar

hotjar recording

What is it? Hotjar (hi!) is behavior analytics for any business selling online. Feedback and user behavior tools like on-site surveys, heatmaps, and session recordings help you understand how users are really experiencing your site so you can identify opportunities to improve UX and increase conversions.

What session replay features does it have? Hotjar’s Session Recordings let you understand user behavior by capturing the visitor’s journey on your site—showing you how they click, move, and navigate across multiple pages. Replays include keystroke recordings (with private details omitted*), so you can see what users are trying to do.

Recordings include adjustable replay speeds and a variety of User Attributes and advanced segmenting options, so you can focus on understanding UX in your most impactful customer segments. Filter your session recordings by device type, exit page, amount spent, and more—or skip straight to sessions that include rage clicks and u-turns.

With Hotjar’s powerful segmentation, you can build out a list of relevant session recordings that mirror your marketing campaign attributes or product research criteria.

Hotjar integrates with Google Optimize, making it easy to create testing programs and analyze page variants.

How can I use it? Sign up, add the Hotjar code to your site, and that’s it!—you’re ready to get started with Session Recordings. Hotjar is free for up to 300 session recordings, including 365-day data storage.

*We take privacy very seriously: learn more about Hotjar’s approach to privacy.

Learn how users are really experiencing your site

Sign up for a free Hotjar account to start using session recordings today.

blog-137-Session-replay-tools

2. FullStory

FullStory session recording

What is it? FullStory is a website conversion platform designed to index every interaction an individual user has with your site, and make it searchable. This data, which includes session recordings, can help identify bugs and provide support to individual users.

What session replay features does it have? FullStory’s session replays feature segmentation, search options, adjustable playback speed, and frustration signals. It also allows you to skip past periods of inactivity, and it records JavaScript information to help shed light on errors.

Unlike Hotjar, FullStory doesn’t include voice of the customer (VOC) feedback tools, which are an important part of understanding (and improving) the user experience. Check our full breakdown of Hotjar vs FullStory to learn more about how our tools compare.

How can I use it? You can access up to 1k sessions per month on FullStory’s free plan.

3. Smartlook

Smartlook sesion recording

What is it? Smartlook is a website conversion rate optimization (CRO) platform that lets you perform qualitative analyses of mobile apps and web pages.

What session replay features does it have? Smartlook’s features include event tracking, adjustable playback speed, and filters. It also provides a friction score for individual pages and allows you to view a log of JavaScript errors, which can help identify bugs.

Smartlook works with mobile apps, but doesn’t offer feedback tools like Hotjar’s Surveys and Incoming Feedback widget.

How can I use it? Install Smartlook by adding a code on your site or integrating it into your CMS. You can record up to 1,500 user sessions each month on Smartlook’s free plan, and the data is saved for one month before being deleted.

4. Mouseflow

Mouseflow session recording

What is it? Mouseflow is a real-time journey intelligence platform that incorporates session replays with web analytics, heatmaps, and other conversion optimization tools. It’s designed primarily for marketing teams.

What session replay features does it have? Mouseflow features adjustable replay speed along with a wide range of segmenting and filtering options.

While its features are similar to Hotjar’s, Mouseflow doesn’t have 365-day data retention or unlimited team member access. Read our detailed breakdown of Hotjar vs Mouseflow to learn more about how the two compare.

How can I use it? Create a Mouseflow account and install their tracking code to get started. Mouseflow offers 500 free user session recordings per month with its free plan.

5. Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg session recording

What is it? Crazy Egg is a platform designed to help businesses optimize their websites. Its features include session recordings, heatmaps, and A/B testing tools.

What session replay features does it have? Crazy Egg’s session replay features include site-wide recording, filters, adjustable playback speed, tagging, and the ability to save favorites. These features can help you analyze different page variants to test with Crazy Egg’s A/B testing tool.

Unlike Hotjar, Crazy Egg doesn’t let you filter for rage clicks or u-turns when you’re trying to find sessions that reveal user pain points. Read our Hotjar vs Crazy Egg breakdown to see a more detailed comparison.

How can I use it? Add a code to your website to get started with Crazy Egg for free.


Now you’ve got an overview of some of the best tools out there, let’s dig deeper into why you need session replays in the first place—and how specific features can help you accomplish your goals.

What makes session replay tools so useful?

Session replays show you how individual users explore your website—right down to their mouse movements and the places they click. They’re the perfect complement to quantitative data-gathering tools like Google Analytics (GA), which help you identify traffic trends across your site.

For example, website analytics tools (like GA) can answer questions like:

  • Which pages are getting noticeably fewer sign-ups or sales than others?
  • Which pages on your site do visitors spend the least amount of time on?
  • Which pages do people visit just before they exit?

Having the answers to those questions is helpful, but session recordings take it a step further by helping you understand individual journeys to see how and why users are completing—or not completing—certain actions on your pages.

So, what specific insights can you get through session replays?

Learn which changes to make to increase conversion rates

hotjar recording

Session replay tools give you a detailed picture of how real users browse your site and interact with different page elements.

After watching a few replays, you might notice users scrolling past an important call to action (CTA) button or browsing a product page without continuing through the sales funnel. These insights can help you make changes to improve the user experience—and ultimately increase conversion rates.

If you’re using Hotjar: Hotjar’s Recordings integrate with Google Optimize, allowing you to compare user experience across your variants in A/B and multivariate testing.

Want to understand why one variant is outperforming another? Just filter your recordings by your Optimize experiment IDs to see recordings from the best-performing variant—then get analyzing!

Find users’ pain points with session replays

rage clicks

Watching session replays can reveal where people are struggling on your site. For example, you might notice that users are going in circles, clicking on unclickable elements, or looking for information that isn’t there.

Uncovering these pain points can help you create a frustration-free website experience where users can easily find what they need. Ultimately, this makes it more likely that visitors will stay on the site and convert.

If you’re using Hotjar: use Hotjar’s Session Recordings filters to hone in on recordings that contain strong indicators of pain points. For example, recordings with rage clicks will show you where users repeatedly and quickly click in one place (indicating broken links, slow-loading pages, or even straightforward cases of confusing design).

Uncover unknown bugs with session replays

Uncover unknown bugs

Because session replays show you exactly what the user saw on their screen, they reveal website bugs—for example, loading issues or buttons and forms that aren’t working correctly. Looking at session recordings that include behaviors like u-turns (where users turn back before completing a key action) is a great way to spot bugs.

Identifying website bugs will help you resolve fundamental issues that could be causing people to exit your site out of frustration, without converting.

If you’re using Hotjar: use Hotjar Session Recordings with our Incoming Feedback widget to find users who completed a combination of actions—like u-turning or rage clicking and leaivng feedback (which would likely indicate user frustration).

Combining tools will help you narrow your focus and identify specific blockers users are experiencing on your site.

Filter Hotjar Recordings by feedback sentiment so you can compare positive and negative customer experiences from the users’ perspective.

recordings feedback- ilters

6 features to look for in a session replay tool

Getting insights from recordings can take a lot of time—especially when you have thousands of sessions to sift through. Here are six features to look for in a session replay tool, to save time and find the most relevant recordings.

Spoiler alert! Hotjar’s Session Recordings include each of the following features, making it a great choice for busy teams that want to analyze user behavior.

  1. Segmented recordings: when you want to see replays from users who took specific actions, session recording segments can save you a lot of time. For example, if you want to investigate why customers on your ecommerce site are abandoning their carts, you could create a filter for visitors who exited from the checkout page.
  2. Filters for specific issues: on the hunt for website bugs? Watch session recordings that have been filtered by user behavior like rage clicks and u-turns, which commonly indicate a bug or broken element.
  3. Alerts and notifications: if you need to analyze particular traffic segments on your website, look for a session replay tool that sends you alerts and notifications about the segments you choose.
  4. Site-wide page viewing and recording: when you analyze user behavior, you might want to understand how individuals move through multiple pages. Look for a tool that lets you watch the user’s entire journey as they click through different parts of your site.
  5. Keyboard stroke recording: sometimes it can be helpful to see what your users are typing—for instance, you might want to know what they’re writing in the search bar. This is when keystroke recording is helpful. Tools with this feature will anonymize personal data, like credit card details, while showing you what users type in search bars and other fields.
  6. Adjustable replay speed: watching session replays can be time-consuming, especially when your users make long visits over multiple pages. Look for a tool that lets you adjust the replay speed to get the insights you need in less time.

Share recordings with your team: the Hotjar x Slack integration

Hotjar x Slack surveys and session recordings integration

Whatever your team’s working on, Hotjar makes it easier than ever to plan your next moves and get the conversation going in Slack.

As well as having on-site survey responses forwarded to your Slack channels, you can now see instant notifications of new session recordings from specific segments.

Session replay tools FAQ

A session replay, also known as a session recording, is a rendering of the actions taken by an individual user as they browse a website. It shows you exactly what they saw on-screen, including their clicks, page scrolls, and mouse movements.

Session replay tools record DOM (Document Object Material) data: the information exchanged by a user’s computer, their web browser, and the website they’re visiting. The tools then reconstruct this data into a visual format—a rendering (recording) of the user’s actions.

Cookies can affect session recordings, depending on the tool you’re using. In some instances, if the user has cookies disabled in their browser, the session replay tool will not function properly. Another effect may be that the session replay tool won’t recognize if the user previously visited your site.

Learn how users are really experiencing your site

Sign up for a free Hotjar account to start using session recordings today.

blog-137-Session-replay-tools
Screen Shot 2018-03-27 at 16.30.26
Hotjar team

100+ Hotjarians, 25+ countries, 1 goal: to give you and your team the insights you need to create experiences your users love.