Watching recordings is a great way to understand what visitors do and how they interact with your website or app—it’s one of the closest things to being in the same room as them and
You can sit in front of hours of recordings and insights might ‘pop out’ at you, but you will get way more out of them if you have a structured approach. This chapter teaches you the 6 steps you need to take to get actionable insight from recordings quickly and on an ongoing basis. We use the Hotjar interface, but the approach should be relatively similar
Before you even start watching recordings, you will need to ‘get in the zone’ and create a focused watching environment.
It usually takes about 10-15 recordings to get into a good watching flow, and the task is faster and more efficient when you can avoid distractions or interruptions.
There isn’t just one way to watch recordings—after talking to several Hotjar users (ourselves included) we’ve heard of people binge-watching from their sofa, locking themselves in a meeting room, and even reviewing recordings while power-walking on a treadmill (!).
Whatever your favorite viewing location is, make sure it helps you (and your team) stay focused on the watching task. It might help if you book a recurring 2-hour slot in your calendar every couple of weeks, so you get into the habit of watching regularly.
When you watch recordings, it’s highly likely that you will want to take notes about what you are noticing while you are noticing it. You again have different options, including:
You probably already know which note-taking system works best for you, so make sure you go into your watching sessions with everything you need for it.
You can then copy&paste the URL of each recording and add it to your notes to refer back when needed. You can also generate a unique URL for each recording and share it with stakeholders or external people who don't have access to your Hotjar account.
Whether you have tens or thousands of recordings to go through, start by identifying what you want to get out of your watching session: knowing what you want to achieve helps you determine which recordings you should start with.
Here are the four most frequent goals we encounter:
If you own or work for an
By looking at recordings of how people really use your product/service, you are very likely to empathize with your users as they experience friction and spot opportunities for change and improvement.
On websites or pages whose primary function is getting someone’s contact details, you can be laser-focused on visitors who fail to complete your forms and the journey they took before getting to the form in the first place.
When you are in charge of managing a website, be it your own or a client’s, watching visitors move around pages and experience failure points (e.g. an error) helps you formulate clear plans to fix issues, remove barriers, and make the overall experience more efficient and enjoyable.
Once you know what you want to get out of your watching session, you’re ready to get onto the recordings page, which will look something like this:
You can see in the top right section of our dashboard that we have more than 6 million recordings (!) available—you may not have as many, but it’s still important that you narrow them down so you are able to find the recordings you need in less time.
There are different ways to start including pertinent recordings and excluding less relevant ones:
Here is how you use filters, tagging, and sorting depending on your goals.
You can bookmark recordings that you and your team want to observe most regularly by creating and saving a segment. For example - if you like to monitor users who abandon the checkout page of your site, you can apply a filter where ‘exit page’ contains: /checkout (or whatever portion of a URL your checkout page has) and save this selection as a segment.
The next time you want to watch recordings of people who leave at checkout, all you have to do is select the relevant segment and you’re good to go.
Now that you’ve defined your goals and narrowed down the recordings you have to watch, you’re ready to press play.
You usually need 10-20 recordings to get in a good viewing flow, after which you should be able to start seeing patterns and develop an understanding of where users hesitate and/or get confused, and what leads them to abandon the site/app.
This is what a Hotjar recording looks like—it's a recording of a previous version of this page:
The interface gives you different options for watching a recording. You can:
Using your favorite note-taking system, start making notes whenever you see something interesting, unusual, or that needs further investigation.
If the purpose of your watching session is to see and understand how people experience your website or app,
If the purpose of your watching session is to identify problems on your website or app that need fixing, look out for:
As you watch your recordings and start spotting themes or interesting elements, you can use built-in functionality to:
At the end of your watching session, you should have a clear list of things to fix, improve, investigate, and/or change that need adding to your pipeline. The final thing to do is decide which one(s) you are going to tackle first.
One way to make this decision easier is to take into account factors such as:
If you prioritize your list based on these parameters, you’ll be able to pick the highest improvement - highest impact - fastest and easiest deployment solution(s) you need to start from—usually, these will be related to bugs, broken elements, or really obvious obstacles that make the user journey across your site or app impossible or extremely difficult.
Later on, you will likely focus on research-based tasks to understand the context around other situations you may have spotted. You can accumulate endless data points about something that doesn’t work, but knowing WHAT is going on is only half of the battle: to get to the root of the problem and find a solution, you will need to understand the WHY.
This is where you can run advanced research by using a choice of customer tools, like on-page surveys, which allow you to collect feedback from your users: these people have all the information you need about the problem they are facing and also the key to its solution.