You’re in the right spot if you’re looking for an authentic, first-hand experience of Hotjar. Keep scrolling to read about my experience with Hotjar. I’ll discuss Hotjar reviews in the last section of this post.
“Figure out what works, what doesn’t, and why – Stop guessing and design with confidence.” Promises Maltese web analytics company, Hotjar. Project managers, researchers, and web designers unanimously agree that the days of guesswork and bias in website design are long gone. It is time we stick to tangible metrics and study our services through the customers’ eyes.
I had been meaning to give Hotjar a shot ever since I first heard about it. After days of anticipation, I finally got the time to give it a go, and here’s my comprehensive review of this platform, what I like, and what I believe should be improved upon.
Once you’ve finished reading, you can make a clearer decision on what your preferred metrics for web analytics are and if Hotjar performs best depending on your mission and the size of your business. If you are a Hotjar user and already know what’s going on there, you can skip the article and sign up on WatchThemLive to eliminate all the headaches.
Hotjar started its journey in 2014 and attracted its first customers a year later. Being early in the competition is among its most significant justifications for being so expensive. Just like WatchThemLive, Hotjar’s core feature is session recording. But Hotjar decided to limit its vision to features like surveys and feedback. Unlike WatchThemLive, which is dedicated to becoming the ultimate all-in-one marketing suite for marketers and Shopify/eCommerce store owners.
My Experience of Using Hotjar
When I first entered the website, what initially caught my eye was the simplicity. They do not believe in jargon, and I respect that. On the top right of the homepage was an option for night mode – which is always appreciated -. With my night mode on, I signed up through my Google Account and proceeded to the next step.
Once you have signed up, you would need to add a website under your account to start viewing its analytics. There are a few methods one can use to install Hotjar on their website. I thought the WordPress plugin was the easiest route to take. Unfortunately, WordPress would not allow me to install the plugin, which I assume was due to authorization. So I was set off on a mission to install the code manually.
I thought it would be best to contact customer support, but then saw that they reply within two days, and I was inclined to give Hotjar a go TODAY. With that said, after approximately an hour of research, I finally learned where I should be pasting the code provided by Hotjar.
I’m not a programmer and do not know how web development works. However, one thing I do know is that I don’t want to be involved with it while I’m trying to manage my website as a one-person band. The more code there is, the more intimidating and intangible the whole process gets, and I’m not a fan of that. Aside from that, the tracking code I was provided with was quite long; which is always a dead giveaway that it is going to slow my website down.
Once Hotjar was set up, I headed over to my profile. I quickly realized that the user interface was unreadable and confusing. Fortunately, they have a navigation bar on the side of the page, but the experience is not as user-friendly as one might think.
It made me wonder: Will my future teammates be able to use this service? We’re looking at all these people with different skill sets and backgrounds, so it would only make sense to shoot for a platform that is easy to use and does not intimidate or confuse its users, especially for software that promotes eliminating unnecessary steps being up-to-the-point.
After about 15 minutes, data analytics started coming in.
My favorite part of Hotjar has got to be the heatmap feature. They provide three different types of heatmaps for a given webpage, and I fairly enjoyed working with them, despite the long loading time. I liked that I could view the heatmaps in mobile view as well. It gave me more context to work with.
However, the heatmaps take very long to get updated. So, the data analytics will be incomplete and will possibly cloud the judgment.
The session replays, however, did not come through as much as I expected them to. I quickly realized that I could not match filtered events to the actual visitor sessions. For example, when I filtered the sessions by u-turns, I could not pinpoint which visitor sessions those snippets belonged to; which made it impossible for me to reach out to those visitors and follow up on their issues. I also could not tell if two or three short snippets I was provided with belonged to the same session or not. It was frustrating at worst and negligent at best.
The rage click filter can be useful, but among all of my recordings, the system did not identify one rage click. It is either the case that I have gotten no rage clicks – which I know is not the case since I ran a test and rage clicked on my website – or that Hotjar could not identify the rage clicks in my recordings. It was quite a bummer, especially since I was really excited to try out this filter.
Moreover, I noticed that Hotjar doesn’t record all user sessions. The recorded sessions were far less than the actual number of my website’s sessions displayed on Google Analytics. This means you might miss out on valuable insights since Hotjar doesn’t record all users.
While working with the session recordings, I liked that I can react to recordings using emojis. It helped with categorizing my information without really putting in much effort.
I like going through every single one of my session recordings -hence clicking on every session recording-. However, my browser was slowing down on me. For every new recording I clicked on, a new tab would open up to display it, which really ate away at my internet speed. The autoplay was not of much help when I had to watch videos from different timelines and open new tabs anyway.
The feedback option could have been useful had it shown up on my website. But after hours of waiting, it was nowhere to be found. I submitted this issue to the customer support section and haven’t received a solution so far.
The survey templates lacked variety. Let’s just say I wasn’t inspired by them and didn’t find the feature handy and upgrade-worthy.
Speaking of which, the free 14-day trial was not quite enough for me to gather valuable user insight and commit to a paid plan, especially considering the high subscription cost.
Hotjar has taken a stance on this: “Our pricing must continue to change and evolve. We must embrace these changes as a part of growing a sustainable business, and we should not feel bad about them.”
As much as I’d like to agree with this standpoint, I cannot shake off the feeling that small businesses ALSO need to evolve and sustain themselves.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Hotjar’s features and pricing with a solid alternative in the Behavior Analytics market, WatchThemLive.
Keep in mind that Surveys and Feedback are not included in the “Observe” plan; to access these features, you would need to upgrade to “ Observe + Ask “ which will cost you a whopping $172 per month!
As shown, WatchThemLive offers double the number of video session replays; which ensures that you won’t need to upgrade yet another time during the month, at almost half the price.
Prioritizing your own profit margins over making your software accessible to the general public is generally a tell-tale sign of Crippleware.
Am I suggesting that Hotjar is a Crippleware? No.
Are they exclusively targeting their products to bigger corporations? Absolutely. Allow me to explain.
My Final Verdict
The main shortcoming Hotjar has not been able to fix – after all these years of being in the competition – is that it generalizes small organizations’ crucial data to the point where it negatively affects the final direction of your decisions.
For small businesses, the stakes are high, and the budget is limited. They should be watching each and every user “individually,” and Hotjar’s model revolves around managing big data. This can be detrimental to small to medium-sized businesses.
I think the reason for this deviation is mostly rooted in user persona research and audience targeting. The more you immerse yourself in the community, the better your understanding of what your users’ needs are.
You might be asking yourself: With these weak points, why is Hotjar on every “Best Web analytics services to try this year” list?
I think I have your answer:
The reason Hotjar initially blew up was mainly that it had the first-mover advantage. Even though Google Analytics has been around since 2005, Hotjar went a step further and modernized the idea of web analytics; with the help of a seasoned marketing and development team, launched a service that caught the eye of your typical project manager in the early 2010s.
There is an honorable mention I need to make here. In 2020, Hotjar realized that the Trump merchandise store has been using Hotjar to appeal to the general public. Hotjar saw that this does not resonate with their values and decided to take a stance against this matter and updated their policies to prohibit any sites that promote organizations, platforms, or people that promote hate, a broader description that encompasses the Trump campaign’s merch store. (Source: Huffpost.com)
To recap, Hotjar is a good option for companies with at least 100+ employees who can afford to pay an annual subscription to unlock all premium features. Elsewise, there are alternatives such as WatchThemLive that provide the same resources (and more) at a much lower price, with more magnification. I’m not sure I can recommend it to everyone, but I respect security compliance, as well as the awareness they have raised on the topic of digital marketing and the importance of web analytics.
Hands down, the best thing about WatchThemLive is the session recording feature. I love that WatchThemLive constantly adds new features to keep up with its users’ needs. Its innovation shows no sign of stopping, and its development roadmap proves why you need to hop on their platform as an early customer.
As you might have guessed, being a younger platform in the market has made them 2x better in terms of customer support, product development opportunities, and even feature enhancements.
Comparing WatchThemLive and Hotjar Reviews
You need to consider essential factors before even signing up on either of these two. Throughout the rest of this post, we will cover their features, pricing, and customer reviews. These are all critical factors to consider before actually buying a product.
Ease of Set-Up
Both platforms have various setup options on paper. But as stated above, Hotjar’s WordPress plugin is reportedly faulty. If fixed, both platforms are pretty much head to head in that sector.
But it is much more different for Shopify owners!
How does it look for Shopify store owners?
While you can automatically install and verify WatchThemLive on your Shopify store, Hotjar users need to take 14 steps to install the tool on their store!
It’s not an easy task for a Shopify store owner to start working with Hotjar. Imagine being forced to go through a long article to learn how to do something, let alone the implementations.
The easy installation has always been an advantage of using WatchThemLive. It can be installed on all platforms, including WordPress, Shopify, Hubspot, and more. In fact, they have a really long list of the platforms they integrate with, and you hardly can find a third-party app missing.
WatchThemLive is easy and fast, and you don’t need to have any knowledge of coding to install it or start growing your website.
Hotjar is known to have session recordings, heatmaps, surveys, and feedback. As I mentioned earlier, their core is the session recording feature; but be careful because purchasing their side features can cost you a fortune.
In the eyes of the customers, what makes it even worse is their free package. Let’s read a recent review from Gianluca, a validated reviewer on G2 who is a professional web developer:
As you can guess, they have been too harsh to force free users to upgrade to premium packages in a manner that has become very annoying.
The same type of comments come from Shopify and eCommerce store owners. In fact, they complain about customer service being poor at Hotjar, constantly sending people away to the FAQs or the resources library, where it’s time-consuming to find the specific answer you are looking for.
A’Lei Beauty is another Shopify store owner complaining about Hotjar’s services on Shopify.
WatchThemLive is becoming the only super app in the market that any marketer, developer, or Shopify/eCommerce store owner may ever need. You can easily understand this from their promising roadmap.
WatchThemLive helps you out by providing you with:
Collect video recordings of the users visiting your platform or web app. Recordings of users’ sessions let you evaluate your visitors’ journey on your website and identify potential improvements or conversion issues.
Create heatmaps to discover where your visitors are focusing their attention on a page to improve your conversion rates and website efficiency.
Create goals to track conversions and increase your conversion rates based on factual data. You will also be able to leverage web analytics to acquire valuable insights, set goals for your website, and achieve objectives.
Everyone, including Shopify/eCommerce store owners, can also record mouse movements, ‘Name, Phone, and Email’ of registered users, and even the browser console.
Visitor Journey Tracking
You can use the visitor tracking tool to understand your audience throughout their browsing experience on the site. This will enable you to customize offers and content for individual visitors and enhance your general audience engagement.
This feature and WatchThemLive’s pricing differentiates WatchThemLive even more from almost all competitors out there.
If you are not okay with your visitor experience insight tool getting expensive so quickly, then you need to have an alternative to Hotjar.
We recommend using WatchThemLive, the only marketing, and customer experience tool that Shopify/eCommerce store owners need to understand their users better and more quickly.
WatchThemLive has many features such as session recordings, visitor journey tracking, analytics, heatmaps, and advanced filtering.Visit WatchThemLive to create your free account or to get a premium package that fits your business or store’s needs.