Record website visitors: guide to getting started with website session recording

Getting your first wins


Visitor recordings allow you to put yourself in your visitors’ shoes as they navigate through your website or app. 

Watching how people browse pages, scroll through content, click on buttons, fill in forms, etc. lets you empathize with the journey and spot any issues they encounter, which in turn gives you the data you need to fix and improve user experience (UX). 



1. What recording website visitors can do for you

Like the name suggests, visitor recordings record the behavior of visitors on your website or app: you get to see their browsers as they click, tap, scroll, and navigate across the page(s).

Recordings are an extremely powerful tool if you need to:

  • Understand and empathize with your visitors’ experience: by recording visitors on your website/app and watching them browse through pages, interact with page elements, go from one section to another, etc., you can develop a clearer overall understanding of their experience—and see how to improve it;

  • See how specific elements are used: for example, you can spot opportunities to tweak your web design and website organization by watching users click buttons and calls-to-action (CTAs), interact with menus, and/or go through checkout steps;

  • Discover bugs, issues, and obstacles: as you watch users get stuck, confused, frustrated as they experience bugs or issues, you can start thinking about solutions to help them progress in their journey;

  • Help team members, clients, and stakeholders make decisions: recordings are easy to share, straightforward to watch, and offer good evidence for getting people onboard before making changes.

2. How visitor recordings work and what they look like

Watching visitor recordings helps you answer questions such as: do visitors know how to use my website? Do they click where I want them to click? Are they getting stuck—and why? For each visitor recording, Hotjar records and collects the following information so you can later replay the entire user journey

  • Scroll and click mouse movements on desktop devices 
  • Scroll and tap movements on mobile devices 
  • Keyboard strokes when users write their data on a page field (note: by default, we replace legible characters with an asterisk, like this ***, to safeguard your users’ privacy. You can manually whitelist the fields you are interested in) 
  • HTML changes such as a visitor reloading the page or navigating to a different one   

The result is usually a rendering like the one below, where you see somebody visiting the Hotjar website, scrolling through the homepage first, and then using the footer repeatedly to navigate to several other pages—which already sparks a usability question: is it just this user who uses the footer instead of the top menu, or do we have a visibility problem in the top section of the page?



After you set up recordings, they will start appearing shortly after new visitors get to your site or app and complete their visit. Depending on how much traffic you have and what data collection plan you are on, you might find yourself with tens or hundreds of recordings:


The platform has a built-in filtering system so you can focus your viewing and only select the recordings that interest you the most based on filters such as:

  • Visitor 
  • Device, browser, and operating system
  • Visitor country
  • Length of visit and/or number of pages viewed
  • URL of page(s) viewed

You can also tag recordings whenever you spot something noteworthy (for example: use the tag “broken button” for all recordings where you see a broken button), then use the tags to filter through and only watch relevant ones. 

3. What to look for in your first recordings

If you’ve never watched user recordings before, we recommend just sitting back, clicking “Play”, and watching a few — it’s always a “wow!” moment when you see real people interact with your website for the first time.

After the first few recordings, you will probably begin to spot trends in your visitor behavior and the way they interact and engage with your website or app. You’ll start noticing:

  • What elements visitors use to navigate from one page to another 
  • How visitors interact—or fail to—with buttons and clickable elements 
  • Unusual mouse activity, for example wild scrolling or repeated clicking 
  • If it takes too long to complete an action 
  • How visitors move around on the page and where they stop.

You’ll also be able to see problems that need fixing, for example:

  • Page(s) that load incorrectly across different devices and/or browsers 
  • Functionality that doesn’t work like it should (example: log in not working, search bar not returning results) 
  • Elements that render incorrectly, are missing and/or broken 
If you have a very specific goal in mind for your watching session, you can read this guide about getting actionable insight from recordings in less than 2 hours.

4. Combining recordings with other insight

Recordings are great to help you zoom into individual experiences and develop a clear understanding of what is going on on your website or app. But they are also a huge asset when you use them in combination with other Hotjar tools to get multiple data points that will help you improve. For example, you can:

  • Use recordings and heatmaps together to spot trends in user behavior 
  • Use recordings, heatmaps, and polls to monitor and spot issues when you launch changes to your website or app.
Are you ready? Log into your account and get started!