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How to optimize your website UX before holidays and high-traffic seasons

You don’t need us to quote the latest stat on how many billions are spent during the holidays to know that Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, sales periods, or even unexpected events (like a pandemic) can drive huge traffic peaks—and a massive amount of wasted value if your site’s not optimized for UX.

Last updated

18 Nov 2023

Reading time

7 min


Boost your conversion rate before the busy season

Online retailer Matalan saw a 400% increase in ROI within nine months of using Hotjar. Start planning for traffic peaks to make every visitor count.

Why you need to optimize your website before the holidays

Pouring more water into a leaky bucket isn’t going to fill it up, and the same is true for website traffic. You need to fix your UX leaks before the traffic pours in because:

You don’t need to do everything in this guide to make an impact. Even just one of these optimizations will increase your chances of having a more profitable holiday season. 

Part 1: getting to know your customers

If you want to convert traffic spikes into sales and loyal customers, you first need to understand why people visit your website and what they’re trying to achieve on a normal, average day—so you can serve more of them when traffic peaks.

1. Understand what your visitors want and need

Why it matters: knowing WHO you’re targeting (your ideal customer profile or buyer persona) and WHAT they need your product for (sometimes known as their jobs to be done) will help you optimize your site for real people and use cases.

#A Hotjar Survey on non-profit FoodCorps’ homepage that asks, “Why did you visit us today?”
A Hotjar Survey on non-profit FoodCorps’ homepage that asks, “Why did you visit us today?”

How to do it: set up an on-site survey on a popular page (like the homepage) to ask users:

  • How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

  • What’s your main reason for using this website/product?

  • What, if anything, is stopping you from achieving your goal?

One of the Hotjar Survey questions Smallpdf used to compile their user persona 

Analyze the responses to find patterns and define your most common user groups and their goals. You will also discover the barriers your target audience is experiencing so you can work on fixing them asap.

2. Ask visitors how they found you

Why it matters: knowing how visitors found your site and heard about your brand will help you boost the most effective marketing channels during times of high traffic. Google Analytics or similar tools can’t track everything, especially word-of-mouth referrals and offline ads, so asking people directly will give a more complete picture.

#Creating a ‘popover’ traffic attribution survey from the free template in Hotjar Surveys
Creating a ‘popover’ traffic attribution survey from the free template in Hotjar Surveys

How to do it: set up a traffic attribution survey using our free template. Trigger the ‘popover’ survey widget to display on all pages or target it to your most important ones (for example, the highest-traffic landing pages).

#The Hotjar Survey used by furniture ecommerce MADE.com to find out how shoppers reached them
The Hotjar Survey used by furniture ecommerce MADE.com to find out how shoppers reached them

Part 2: fixing bugs

When traffic starts to flow in, the negative impact of any bugs on your site will compound and create barriers for holiday shoppers with little time or patience. Remove this friction before the holidays and conversion rates will improve.

1. Find bugs in your checkout or sign-up flow

Why it matters: your checkout or sign-up flow is the final barrier stopping visitors from converting into customers. Finding and fixing checkout bugs before busy periods will help increase conversion rate and revenue when traffic is at its highest.

#A Hotjar Recording showing mouse movement on the Hotjar homepage
A Hotjar Recording showing mouse movement on the Hotjar homepage

How to do it: the fastest way to see where people get stuck in your checkout or sign-up flow is to watch them interact with it. Use session recordings (also known as user replays) to review individual users’ mouse movements, clicks, taps, and scrolling patterns across multiple pages on desktop or mobile devices. 

Filter Recordings to show only sessions that contain or ended on a checkout or sign-up page (e.g., mysite.com/order.html), but did not end with an order confirmation page (e.g., mysite.com/thank-you.html).

#Filter Hotjar Recordings by page to watch key sessions
Filter Hotjar Recordings by page to watch key sessions

Watch these sessions to see the journey each user took before bouncing from the checkout, how long they spent on each page, and what they clicked or ignored. You’ll start to see patterns. Identify the most common behaviors that could be causing drop-offs and fix any problems to improve your checkout rate.

💡Pro tip: if you track cart abandonment rate or other custom metrics specific to your website, create them in Hotjar Trends and add them to your Dashboard. That way, you can constantly monitor their performance and intervene with a fix as soon as a problem pops up.

Materials Market’s checkout abandonment went from 25% to 4% after Hotjar Recordings showed them where users were getting stuck

2. Spot elements that get ignored

Why it matters: you need to know if your pixel-perfect designs are working as intended in the real world. Seeing how far users scroll and if they click where you want them to will help you design pages that convert during traffic peaks.

A Hotjar Heatmap CRO expert Dylan Ander used to remove unused menu elements

How to do it: generate a Hotjar Heatmap on high-traffic pages to see where users are clicking, what they’re missing, and what might be distracting them. You’ll see how many clicks important CTAs get and if users are misclicking non-clickable elements. 

Since heatmaps are simple and visual, they’re an excellent way to explain your work to non-designers—and get buy-in for website redesign proposals ahead of the busy season.

Product designer Emily Veras used scroll maps on natural vanilla store Lavanila to diagnose and improve scroll depth

💡Pro tip: filter heatmaps to view click activity for critical cohorts (like users who entered or exited on specific pages) or to compare users who purchased against those who didn’t.

Hotjar Heatmaps helped The Good optimize Swiss Gear’s mobile design and increase holiday conversion rate by 14%

3. Watch where people get frustrated by your website design

Why it matters: by viewing and filtering session recordings, you can quickly spot website bugs and issues and implement fixes before traffic starts to spike.

How to do it: set up Hotjar Recordings across your website, then filter for important sessions containing rage clicks (where users repeatedly click on an element—a sign of frustration) and U-turns (where users go back to an earlier page before completing a purchase—signaling uncertainty).

4. Find out why people leave your site

Why it matters: people might leave your site without buying for many reasons: maybe they were looking for information, couldn't find what they needed, or got fed up with poor UX. You can’t convert every visitor into a customer, but knowing why people leave gives you a chance to fix the problems behind some bounces and drive more conversions during peak traffic times.

#Use the drop-down menu in the Dashboard to view your top exit pages
Use the drop-down menu in the Dashboard to view your top exit pages

How to do it: first, install your Hotjar tracking code if you haven’t already, so we can start collecting those golden nuggets of data. Next, go to your Dashboard and use the drop-down in the 'Top pages’ section to view exit pages. Click the play button to watch session recordings from pages with the highest exit rate. Take note of behavior patterns, like:

  • Signs of frustration (e.g., clicking on non-clickable elements or scrolling up and down searching for something) 

  • Which areas of the page people linger on, and which sections seem to get missed

  • If there’s something a lot of users do immediately before they leave (e.g., seeing an item is out of stock)

💡Pro tip: if you use Hotjar to power surveys and session recordings, view recordings of users who left feedback and connect the dots between what they said (the feedback) and what they experienced (the session recording) before exiting.

Part 3: delighting users

UX optimization is not just about fixing bugs: insights will also help you create a delightful experience for users that leads to more conversions. 

Get your website holiday ready with Hotjar

Prepare for holidays and high-traffic seasons before they land to make it easier for more visitors to convert.

1. Find out what persuades visitors to take action

Why it matters: existing customers know something you don’t—what made them convert in the first place. By simply asking them to let you in on the secret, you can optimize the website to funnel more visitors down the same path.

#An example post-purchase survey flow created with Hotjar Surveys
An example post-purchase survey flow created with Hotjar Surveys

How to do it: create a post-purchase survey on the thank-you or order-confirmation page to catch customers while the experience is fresh in their minds. Ask customers to rate their experience, then use survey logic to trigger relevant follow-up questions to learn what they loved, what could have been improved, and what almost stopped them from purchasing.

Categorize the responses to find popular themes, then:

  • Double down on things customers love and make them a bigger or more prominent part of the experience

  • Address the issues and ‘almost-deal-breakers’ that could be stopping less-determined shoppers from converting

2. Let visitors tell you what they think, any time

Why it matters: your visitors and customers have more experience using your website than you do. Giving them a way to leave feedback on any site page, whenever they like, will help you learn what’s working well so you can share wins with the team and do more of the good stuff before the busy period begins.

Positive comments collected by Resume.io co-founder Tikhon Belousko with Hotjar Feedback

How to do it: add a site-wide Feedback widget so visitors can click on the discreet Feedback button on any site page and rate their experience at any time. Filter to ‘only Love responses’ to review what’s pleasing visitors the most. The less-positive comments (yes, you will get those too!) will help you find and fix website bugs quickly, especially since users can tag any page element to go with their comment.

Hotjar Feedback helped gym membership service Hussle quickly find and fix website bugs

Good UX is not just for the holidays

Traffic spikes might be a one-off holiday present, but good UX is the gift that keeps on giving. 😉

Using dark patterns or cheap tricks to make a ton of holiday sales isn’t going to deliver value for the business if you end up with returned items or churning users. The best way to increase conversions and earn loyal customers during a traffic spike is to make UX optimization a year-round habit.

Get your website holiday ready with Hotjar

Prepare for holidays and high-traffic seasons before they land to make it easier for more visitors to convert.