When planning and designing a website or webshop, a lot of thought is put into how the imagined user will move around the site. There are all kinds of best practices and techniques based on user psychology that you can use as a guide, but actual users can still surprise you from time to time with their online behavior.
This is where session recordings come in. Also sometimes referred to as “session replays”, these recordings capture actions taken by every user on your site (or a significant sample of them, depending on the tool you use)—this includes clicks, taps, scrolls, and even the pauses in between—which you can then replay and analyze later. It’s like being able to look over your user’s shoulders while they’re browsing your site, where you can see exactly what they see on their computer screen or mobile device.
How can you use session recordings for user behavior analysis?
Any business owner, marketer, or UX designer will probably find just watching recordings of actual browsing sessions an exciting prospect—user behavior analytics aside, it would simply be nice to see how new visitors move around a page that you’ve designed and tweaked to (hopefully) perfection for too many times.
But of course, session recordings can be used as more than a validation for your design decisions. Here are some ways that you can utilize this technique to optimize your website UX.
1. Start with a goal—what would you actually like to learn? Replaying session recordings at random may give you a few aha! moments from time to time, but starting with a goal in mind will help you be more structured in your analysis.
It could be that you want to know why you’re getting a lot of traffic to your contact page but only a few submissions—replaying session recordings of specific users who visited but did not convert can help you see any barriers preventing them to submit.
2. Look for recurring patterns among users on similar journeys. In the previous article about heatmaps, we mentioned that session recording is all about drilling down to the individual level—but it doesn’t mean isolating a single user from the majority.
Different users may show signs of different issues, but try to focus on the most common, recurring patterns especially for those who are on similar journeys, i.e., users who came from the same referrer like a Facebook ad, or users who visit the same set of pages on the way to your conversion page.
(Crazy Egg automatically groups session recordings into categories to help you have a baseline for analyzing these replays)
3. Use them like a heatmap with more context. Since heatmaps represent aggregate data, there’s usually not much background information on the actual users where the data came from.
Session replays provide information about the individual visitors like referrer, country, device type, operating system, etc. enabling you to understand the context of their actions on the page.
And since these recordings let you follow along with users for the whole browsing journey as they move from one page to another, you can better understand the intent as opposed to looking at only the performance of a single page.
With this in mind, you can then watch your website session recordings, taking note of whether your users are paying attention to important content, finding their way to your CTAs, or getting confused with non-clickable elements on the page, etc.—like what you would look for in a heatmap.