Hotjar: an essential addition to your analytics arsenal

I have been using Hotjar in both my freelance and Edinburgh Napier work for about a year. Hotjar is an analytics tool that shows how users interact with web and app content, using tools like heatmaps and recordings.

Hotjar has been available since 2014 and is very simple to use. It offers a wide range of pricing options (including free) depending on the numbers of user visits you want to track and the number of reports you want to run at one time.

Why use Hotjar?

Hotjar allows website administrators to make informed decisions when redeveloping content. It shows what is being viewed and clicked on most. It also shows how far down pages users scroll.

With its range of reports, Hotjar offers the equivalent of free user testing, removing the need to spend time and money on recruiting individuals.

The format of results also enables simple demonstration of website use that can be used to influence stakeholders in an organisation in ways that Google Analytics data might not… a picture is worth a thousand words, or numbers!

Hotjar is designed to complement Google Analytics rather than replace it.

Getting started

Creating an account

It’s possible to get up and running with Hotjar very quickly. Visit the Hotjar website and choose the sign up option. You can either set up an account based on your email address or with an existing Google account.

There are three main pricing options available on the Hotjar site:

  • Free – this allows for three concurrent reports of each kind (e.g. heatmaps) and tracks up to 2,000 pageviews per day (ideal for low-traffic sites)
  • Plus – this allows for unlimited reports and up to 10,000 pageviews per day. It costs €29/month
  • Business – this allows for unlimited reports and tracks between 20,000 and 2M pageviews per day, with prices starting at €89/month (new users can trial this for free for 15 days)

Each user account can include unlimited organisations (useful for companies administering numerous websites) and each organisation can include multiple sites (e.g. our Edinburgh Napier account has a site for the main website, Staff Intranet and Student Portal).

Hotjar site list

Pricing options are set at site level, not account level (i.e. if your organisation has more than one site needing to track over 20,000 views per day, multiple business plans will need to be purchased) and can be up or downgraded at any time.

Unlimited users can be added to each organisation with three different permission levels available:

  • Admin – ability to add or remove users
  • Read & write – ability to set up reports and access stats
  • Read only – ability to access stats

    Installing Hotjar

    Hotjar tracking code is added via a JavaScript snippet placed in the HTML head tag on each page of a website. Each site has a unique ID which is included in the script.

Hotjar tracking code

For sites using a Content Management System (CMS) the template for the header file should be updated with the relevant code. Personally, I add the code using Google Tag Manager (GTM) as it has a pre-built tag available.

GTM Hotjar tag

Report options in Hotjar

There are two different groupings available in Hotjar, with four report types under each:

  • Analytics – quantitative data on how people interact with your site content
  • Feedback – qualitative data that you can invite users to provide

Analytics

Heatmaps

Heatmaps are perhaps the most recognisable of Hotjar’s offerings. They work by showing a screenshot of a webpage overlaid with activity displayed using coloured blobs. The more activity recorded, the closer to the red end of the colour spectrum the blobs appear (thus “heat”).

Heatmaps show activity across three platforms:

  • Desktop
  • Tablet
  • Mobile

On desktop they show click, move (based on mouse position which generally matches where users are looking) and scroll activity, while the other two report on tap and scroll data only.

Heatmap options

Heatmaps are a great way to show how users are interacting with page content and are set up on individual pages. The website screenshot used is the first one recorded after a heatmaps is set up.

Hotjar heatmap

Recordings

These are video recordings of user interactions during visitor sessions, showing all the activity across all pages visited. On paid plans, recordings can be activated based on specific page visits while the free version will record the first 100 visits to the site, regardless of pages visited.

Recordings list

Different recording limits can be set on paid accounts; 100, 2,000 or 5,000 visits. Videos can be filtered based on the number of pages viewed and visit duration amongst many other things. Recordings can also be tagged so they can be found easily (e.g. form submitted or a specific action completed).

Recording filter

Funnels

These reports show the percentage of users that follow a predefined route through a website. Specific steps can be added (e.g. pages viewed in a specific order) and the report shows the number and percentage of users who fulfil the criteria. These reports are retrospective so can include data collected before the funnel was set up.

Hotjar funnel

These reports are useful when reviewing expected user journeys and for informing decisions on site navigation or on page links. They are also helpful when calculating the value of visits to specific pages during an application or purchase process.

Forms

If your site has a registration or contact form, this report can show how users interact with it. It includes details on how long users spend completing each field, where they repeat entries or when they give up.

Hotjar form

It also reports the level of successful submissions as a percentage, although this isn’t always accurate depending on the forms used (for an accurate figure, firing a tag on successful submission using GTM may be required).

Feedback

Incoming

This tool allows users to provide quick feedback about their experience. The feedback module floats as an overlay on the site.

Hotjar incoming button

When clicked, five faces depicting a range of emotions (from hate to love) are shown. Users can click on these to rate the current page. They are also able to type a short message or screenshot if they want to.

Incoming feedback box

Polls

This feature floats at the bottom of the screen as a pop up window. A title appears that, when clicked, causes the box to slide up into view.

Hotjar poll

Polls allow for a few quick questions to be asked with responses entered in a text field.

Surveys

Like polls, these are designed to ask your users questions but they appear as a stand-alone page. They can be fired after a certain amount of time on a page or site, or can pop up when a user goes to navigate away from the site.

They function in the way you’d expect any survey to, with varying types of questions and response mechanisms available.

These are designed for times you want extensive feedback from users, rather than quick opinions.

Recruiters

Rather than asking questions, these are used to recruit potential users for more formal testing. They pop up like polls and allow users to provide their contact details if they wish to take part

Summary

I have found Hotjar to be a vital component in my analytics arsenal. What might have taken a long time to explain using tables and graphs previously can be done instantly using heatmaps and recordings.

The ease of use is a big selling point for Hotjar with users walked through the steps when setting up report items.

I have presented the tool to both staff and students at Edinburgh Napier and most have been impressed with its functionality and excited about how it might be used to report on their own projects.

If you’d like any help getting started with Hotjar, or want to find out more about my experience using the tool, please get in touch.

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