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What can you do to understand your website visitors’ behavior? First, you can (and you should) dive into quantitative data stored in Google Analytics or a similar tool. You will see what pages people browse, which pages report the highest bounce rate, what are the most popular conversion paths etc. If you don’t do this sort of analysis yet it’s about time to start. Second, website surveys or live chat will help you collect qualitative data from visitors. With user, you will discover what people think about your website, what problems they face while browsing, what you could improve etc.

But most of the visitors won’t engage with surveys nor live chat. How to turn their visits into data source for improvements to your website, aside from analyzing data in Google Analytics? Watch recordings of their sessions to see how they use your website.

You see where they click, where they move the cursor, how far they scroll, and where they get stuck. Here’s a sample session recording:

We use session recordings ourselves to find out where people get stuck once they register and to evaluate new pages. For example, we used session recordings to analyze a page promoting beta release of our mobile app surveys. Conclusions drawn from watching recordings, combined with analyzing answers to a website survey and GA data, resulted in implementing a few simple changes on the page. Their result? Conversion rates more than doubled.

Pros:

  • easy to set up (you install it like any other similar tool, just a piece of JavaScript code added to the website)
  • recordings fulfill feedback gathered with website surveys or live chat and qualitative data from an analytical tool like Google Analytics
  • watching as few as 10 recordings can help you understand what people actually do on your website and what problems they face

Cons

  • some people might see them as abusing privacy
  • you know exactly what people do but still don’t know reasons why people behave as they do (did they really get lost or do they like clicking around while browsing?)
  • it’s more difficult to turn recordings into conclusions and decisions than user feedback collected with website surveys or usability tests

Best practices

Adding a piece of JavaScript code of a chosen tool to the website is not enough. Remember about a few best practices – they will make your usage more effective.

Filter sessions to speed up analysis

Usually, watching sessions that lasted just a few seconds doesn’t make much sense. Longer sessions with at least a few pages browsed provide more interesting insights.

That said, if you’re just getting started with session recordings, watch also those short ones – you can find out that the website loads too long or important elements don’t work and cause people to bounce.

Use sampling

Watching 500 sessions won’t provide you with much more insights than watching 50 of them. So use sampling to save on your subscription and not overwhelm yourself with videos you won’t be able to watch anyway. If you’re implementing tracking script with Google Tag Manager, you can set sampling there. Here’s how to do it: http://www.simoahava.com/analytics/simple-split-test-google-tag-manager/

Identify the most serious problem and focus on them first

You’re likely to be tempted to watch all the recordings – it’s just fun, at least at the beginning. But focus on those recordings that might answer most important problems first, like why people are abandoning your signup page, registration form or a landing page you use for PPC campaigns.

Google Analytics will help you identify those problems (look for high exit rates on pages crucial for your website). When you’re done fixing the most important problems, dive further into analytics and recordings to find and fix less important ones.

Key takeaways

Session recordings are the closest you can get to remote usability tests without a need of hiring specialists, finding testers, or even software that charges you for each test – people who visit your website are your testers and tools are easily available.

Combined with website surveys, they will provide you with knowledge why visitors behave as they do and what you can do to improve their website experience. As mentioned at the beginning, sometimes simple changes can lead to significant increases in conversion rates. Combined with a session recording tool and/or heatmaps, you get a full understanding of what and why is happening on your website.