Just the other night, my wife wanted to buy a purse on an eCommerce site that I have done extensive work for. Just out of curiosity, I decided to stand behind her and watch her interact with the website. As I jotted down notes as she went about shopping, I began to notice things I had never considered before. She tried clicking on things that weren’t intended to be clicked on. Certain areas of the pages caught her attention that I didn’t consider noteworthy.

I was surprised by how much I learned from this simple situation. As I thought about it, I realized that my Google Analytics are not telling me the whole story.

In my opinion, traditional web analytics fail in the following areas:

  1. They do not record micro actions (movement of the mouse, interaction with forms, etc)
  2. They do not show where the user is looking (eye movement)
  3. Most do not record users clicking on non-linked elements
  4. They only show where the user has gone, not where they intended to go

When you begin to watch a user actually engage a website, you pick up on clues that you would never have learned from your analytics. You notice when they are lost. You notice when they are frustrated. You notice when they want to click on something that wasn’t intended to be clicked on.

With these weaknesses in mind, I started researching alternative web analytics solutions. Below are some great solutions I’ve found:

  1. Crazy Egg: Crazy Egg offers heatmap visibility, a unique confetti map, and extremely easy setup. The confetti layout allows you to see everything a user clicks on, including non-hyperlink elements. Their pricing is pretty decent, and they offer a free account for up to 5,000 monthly visits.
  2. ClickHeat: ClickHeat is an open source web analytics based on PHP and MySQL. Like CrazyEgg, it offers a heatmaps, allowing you to see the click hotspots on a page. I haven’t installed it yet, but it looks promising.
  3. CamStudio: Not exactly intended solely for web analytics, CamStudio is an open source Screen recording software that’s perfect for in-house usability testing. For one of my clients, I’m planning on bringing in a dozen or so web users, and record them performing common tasks on the clients website.

Be sure to leave comment if you’ve used any of these solutions or any others.