A new form of web analytics has appeared! Its one that records every keystroke, mouse movement, and click of your actual users for easy playback. That’s right! You can now sit back and literally watch every action your users make on your website.

As the concept sounded interesting, I took ClickTale, userfly, and Mouseflow.com for a spin. I wanted find out if there’s actual value in going through thousands of recorded user-sessions and the statistics that can be pulled from it. Read on and find out!

Trust is good. Google Analytics is better. User recordings finishes the job!

The core feature of each service is to record and playback the interactions of your website’s users – a feature that is incredibly useful. It helps bury preconceived ideas of how you think your users interact with your site. Guessing is dead. Now you can actually know! Say bye to long and tiresome debates!

Traditional web analytics suites like Google Analytics are priceless, but their statistics leaves you guessing. You have to make qualified guesses to why certain parts of your website is less visited than others. You have to make guesses as to where the user looks and which button he clicks. You have to make changes in the blind.

User recordings moves you from guessing to knowing! To be quite honest, I am stunned how web analytics professionals can call themselves professionals without also digging in to user recordings.

Recording your users is like conducting thousands of user tests. Face-to-face user tests are invaluable, but their main problem is that they are qualitative. You are not entirely certain that what three users did is the same as all of your users would would do. Face-to-face user tests are incredibly valuable, but can be artificial and too task oriented. User recordings lets you watch users who are just visiting for the experience, inspiration, or mere waste of time. You will never get to observe such behavior in a face-to-face moderated user test. I am sold!

User recordings moves you from guessing to knowing

The playback controls of the three services: userfly.com, mouseflow.com, and clicktale.com

The playback controls of the three services: userfly.com, mouseflow.com, and clicktale.com

The three services

Userfly.com

Out of the three user recording services, userfly.com is the most basic. Its only feature is recording user sessions and playing them back. You can sort and filter your recordings by a number of variables, but that is it.

There is no dashboard, and statistics that sums everything up. Userfly however does its job well.

Mouseflow.com

Mouseflow.com ups the ante from Userfly.com. At a ridiculously low cost per month, you get a smoother user recording and playback suite, as well as page analysis, click heatmaps and viewport heatmaps.

The page analysis crosses the border of Google Analytics, and will tell you things like bounce rate and average visit length. However, what traditional web analytics can’t tell you are “average interaction time”, loading time, and clicks per view. I particularly find the combination of “average visit length” and “average interaction time” interesting: are you users actually doing anything while visiting your site?

The click heatmap will give you a glimpse of what links attract attention, and perhaps just as interesting: what non-interactive parts of a page do your users believe they can interact with.

Finally, the viewport heatmap (scroll reach) will tell you if your users actually make it to the bottom of a page. Do only 10% of your users read your blog posts in their entirety?

Mouse-move heatmap from clicktale.com

Mouse-move heatmap from clicktale.com

Don’t let the simple look of mouseflow.com fool you. It’s a powerful web analytics suite that gives you plenty of statistics and features to play around with. Mouseflow had what I needed and not all that nice-to-have stuff.

Did I mention it’s a steal at its current price? At first I didn’t see it, but they charge you for recordings and not pageviews. A website with moderate user interaction have around 5-10 pageviews per recording.

UPDATE: Since this review, mouseflow.com added livestreaming (watch your users live!) and movement heat maps.

ClickTale

ClickTale is by far the most advanced service of the three! They have been in business since 2006, which clearly shows. Things just work!

Besides user recordings, Clicktale takes this form of web analytics to a whole other level that can best be described as a full-fledged mature web analytics suite.

ClickTale adds two more interesting heatmaps to tha ball: “mouse move” and attention heatmaps. The mouse-move heatmap acknowledges a phenomenon I observed many times while watching recorded user sessions: people tend to use the mouse pointer to guide their eyes! ClickTale claims that there is an 84% to 88% correlation between mouse and eye movements. Budget eye tracking anyone?

All heatmaps can be filtered real-time by transparency, coverage, temperature. I was amazed – you really need to check out this for yourself.

Most web analytics professionals are incredibly concerned with increasing conversion rates. A crucial form can either make or brakes an account creation, lead sign up, or purchase. This is why I was ecstatic to find out how powerful ClickTale’s form analytics tool was. It broke down the conversion funnel into interactions, and even told me what fields of a form was left untouched, and what field took the longest to fill out.

ClickTale is packed with report tools, statistics tools, and lots of powerful features that I never got to explore. It’s huge! And that’s my main concern with ClickTale: you almost need to be educated to take full advantage of the suite. Although I enthusiastically explored the abundance of cool ClickTale features, I kept falling back to just watching user recordings.

The form conversion funnel analysis at clicktale.com

The form conversion funnel analysis at clicktale.com

Form time analytics at clicktale.com

Form time analytics at clicktale.com

Everything below 10.000 recordings is useless

10.000-20.000 user recordings seemed to be the limit for getting useful recordings with good long interactions that you can learn from. It also seemed to be the limit for the heatmaps and especially the form analytics of ClickTale to render userful.

Pricing

In the calculations below, I’ve assumed an average of 4 pageviews per recording and that 1 Euro is worth 1.4 dollars.

Userfly

Plan Price in dollars Price in euros Recordings Pageviews
Free $0 €0 10 recordings ~ 40 pageviews
Basic $10 €7 100 recordings ~ 400 pageviews
Pro $25 €18 1.000 recordings ~ 4.000 pageviews
Business $50 €36 1.000 recordings ~ 4.000 pageviews
Enterprise $200 €143 10.000 recordings ~ 40.000 pageviews

Mouseflow

Plan Price in dollars Price in euros Recordings Pageviews
Free $0 €0 100 recordings ~ 400 pageviews
Small $14 €10 1.000 recordings ~ 4.000 pageviews
Medium $69 €49 10.000 recordings ~ 40.000 pageviews
Large $139 €99 25.000 recordings ~ 100.000 pageviews
X-Large $279 €199 100.000 recordings ~ 400.000 pageviews

Clicktale

Plan Price in dollars Price in euros Recordings Pageviews
Free $0 €0 ~ 100 recordings 400 pageviews
Bronze $99 €71 ~ 5.000 recordings 20.000 pageviews
Silver $290 €207 ~ 20.000 recordings 80.000 pageviews
Gold $790 €564 ~ 62.500 recordings 250.000 pageviews

The verdict

User recordings is what it comes down to: it is what by far gives me the most value. User recordings replicate my all-time favorite google analytics companion: real-life face-to-face user testing. Each service does this well.

Watching thousands of user sessions is time consuming. Behavior repeats and watching it gets boring after a while. This is why you need statistics and analytics. Here, ClickTale is the undisputed winner. Its analysis capabilities never ceased to amaze me!

I however keep thinking that I could do with mouseflow.com for the needs and budget I have right now. When I get familiar with the functionality, I might want more – and that’s when I’ll turn to ClickTale.

The verdict is a tie between ClickTale and mouseflow.com! While ClickTale can do way more and works better than mouseflow, mouseflow is cheap and will fulfill all your needs for a good while.

User recordings replicate my all-time favorite google analytics companion: real-life face-to-face user testing.

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Anders Toxboe Author

As the head of Bonnier Publication’s Interactive department in Copenhagen, Denmark, Anders Toxboe builds awesome websites with his team. He also founded UI-Patterns.com and a series of other projects.

19 comments

  • 8636e8ea6b2a5005c4093e5318f671bc

    Ravi on Apr 23, 2010

    Good quick review. But the article didn’t say how all these work? Do the user needs any downloads? Will they know that the actions of their screens are kind of tracked? And finally, the link to userfly is not misleading. It goes to usefly.com, missing “r” in the url.
    Thanks for taking time for the reviews.
    Ravi

  • 7003edafebe3b3b48bac0599f951e550

    Jacob on Apr 27, 2010

    Do you worry that people might find these kind of services a little invasive? Also, I wonder how long it takes to sort through the data you gather…

  • 6d3df1b609c68b24d7d8ef0ae400484a

    joe on May 26, 2010

    The link to userfly.com in the article points to the wrong url. the correct url is www.useRfly.com.

  • Ee373f3d6bc66779cf1212f39d3c9741

    Clicktale Review on Aug 03, 2010

    Click tale absolutely rocks. I use it on all my web sites. Won’t live without it anymore. I’ve dedicated an entire blog to teaching people how to use it in their businesses. If you’re not using it, start using it now.

  • Ee373f3d6bc66779cf1212f39d3c9741

    Brian on Aug 03, 2010

    Clicktale is awesome. I like it better than both userfly and mouseflow.

  • 98cf8e3641b1d8b8ff0d23d977a262fa

    gmbh news on Aug 05, 2010

    MOuseflow is amazing, I’ve been trying it for sometime now and I keep loving it.

  • 1fb6bb0b2ff7316241950098ed700294

    jeff t on Aug 05, 2010

    I’m in agreement with the userfly folks. Mouseflow was too buggy.

  • F0343937c4db53c4c6a2a91b70679586

    AS on Oct 25, 2010

    I tried out userfly free version but the quality of the video really sucks. After the first few seconds, the video and the clicks get unsynchronised and you can’t really see what the user was doing.

  • Db87707dcb18cb0af9f3fe549971aa34

    RW on Nov 16, 2010

    Be careful!

    Mouseflow is NOT PCI compliant. They will collect unencrypted credit card details including the cc number, expiry date and CCV code and then maintain this information in an un-encrypted state. Even worse, they will then display this information over an unsecured HTTP connection when you view the recordings of people who have gone through your checkout process.

    Apparently you can limit the collection of this data by assigning a ‘no-mouseflow’ class to sensitive fields, but this information is not provided anywhere in their instructions that I can find.

    If you are using Mouseflow, you could be risking your PCI compliancy.

  • 4e812201addb4289a1272e02b3c4f62d

    Mark on Nov 18, 2010

    I will not go with userfly, because they record your credit card details and they don’t offer any other payment method

  • 061e062477066aa690086423fc4317bf

    Best Website Designer on Dec 21, 2010

    Invention of heatmap has been a great help for all online marketers, as we can easily track the amount of clicks and the location of it very clearly.

  • De3d860c3a8b6872d2b085a4acc55a64

    Dan on Jan 06, 2011

    Hello,
    following your Update about Movement Heatmaps, does it mean that Mouseover now offers same functionality as Clicktale? Or where specifically does Clicktale still have the edge?
    Thanks !

  • Fe6523c52a303bffc78acabebd1a22b4

    china hotel guangzhou on Feb 07, 2011

    I will not go with userfly, because they record your credit card details and they don’t offer any other payment method

  • 4371fd76a90b04485ad05327561dd48c

    Ketones on Feb 19, 2011

    Hi,
    After your update Heatmaps Movement, this means that now Mouseover the same functionality as Click Tale? Click Tale still explicitly or lips?
    Thanks!

  • 4371fd76a90b04485ad05327561dd48c

    haemophilus influenzae on Feb 19, 2011

    A good quick overview. But the article does not say how it works? Put the needs of all users to download? They know that the event was held on their screens? Finally, a reference to userfly not misleading. It’s usefly.com, missing "R"in the url.
    Thanks for taking the time to evaluate.

  • 5e664490bde63b2fc4381526704ccddc

    venapro on Mar 31, 2011

    nvention of heatmap has been a great help for all online marketers, as we can easily track the amount of clicks and the location of it very clearly.

  • 5e664490bde63b2fc4381526704ccddc

    venapro on Mar 31, 2011

    Apparently you can limit the collection of this data by assigning a ‘no-mouse-flow’ class to sensitive fields, but this information is not provided anywhere in their instructions that I can find.

  • Ebb42d2495567b4d80d528b06d5f3097

    Alexandre Jasmin on Dec 01, 2011

    I’m curious about the technology behind these services.

    Are they feeding user input to a browser on their server to record the videos or just rendering a video of a moving cursor on top of a screen-shot of the page? Do forms get resubmitted each time you watch something? How good is the ajax support?

    And is this for analytics only or could I use this to quickly see what an user did that was reported in an error log at 10:23 AM from a given IP address?

  • B0913d30ac511e24d0f3a0a7c5f8b2b9

    L M on Feb 09, 2012

    For free comprehensive visitor recording, click / visual attention heatmaps and analytics, try Orpheus Tools. It does everything the competitors offer, but with no charges.

    www.orpheustools.com

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