Session Recording 101: Use Cases, Best Practices & 5 Tools to Get You Started

Session Recording 101: Use Cases, Best Practices & 5 Tools to Get You Started

Elena Doynova

Sep 12, 2023 • 10 min read

Session Recording 101 Use Cases, Best Practices & 5 Tools to Get You Started

Ever wondered what actually happens when someone visits your website or uses your app? Session recording and session replay will help you track and record every website or app interaction to paint a fuller picture of the user journey. With playbacks resembling miniature movies, session recording captures the entire user journey, showing you the subtle behaviors that may remain hidden behind traditional analytics stats. You can observe closely where users stumble, abandon carts, encounter bugs, or get distracted, so you can learn how to remove roadblocks efficiently. Session recording can be a true compass guiding the whole product team along the way to developing seamless interactions that translate to outstanding digital experiences. Let’s get deeper into this marvelous technology, shall we? 

What is session recording?

Session recording is a powerful tool that provides a window into the universe of user interactions on websites and mobile applications. It allows you to capture and analyze the behavior of their users as they navigate through digital platforms. Recording user sessions helps your product team gain insights that inform decision-making, improve user experiences, and drive growth.

How does session recording work?

Powerful digital analytics tools such as SessionStack use a technology called tagless autocapture to record web sessions. 

Tagless autocapture is an advanced technique that eliminates the need for manual instrumentation and tagging of elements on your website or application. Instead of relying on predefined tags or markers, autocapture algorithms intelligently detect and record user interactions automatically. This method significantly reduces implementation efforts and allows you to capture a wide range of user actions without the need for explicit tracking configurations. What’s more, it works from the moment it’s installed and you can use it even retroactively to not only watch sessions but also apply segmentation or build funnels.

Manual Instrumentation vs Tagless Autocapture

For example, SessionStack uses a simple code snippet installed on the website or application. It is used to download a library that integrates with the software of our customers. It then starts collecting information – mouse clicks and movements, the HTML structure of the web page, browser resizing, tab switching and visibility changes, user input, etc. SessionStack also handles exceptions and network data so that we can help developers pinpoint technical issues more easily. Finally, our servers collect data about static resources – like CSS and images.

You can say that during session recording, we deconstruct the user experience (UX) on the website or app of our customers and then reconstruct it in the SessionStack back end with absolute precision.

The Benefits of Session Recording 

Where do we even begin? 

For businesses, it provides an opportunity to closely monitor user behavior and preferences. Various stakeholders across the organization can observe real user sessions to identify pain points, understand why users drop off or abandon their carts, and find usability issues that hinder your product from increasing conversion. This information enables them to better navigate strategy and implementation processes, optimize their product, and enhance the overall user experience.

From a user’s perspective, session recording can lead to an improved digital experience. By capturing and analyzing user interactions, businesses can focus on specific user needs, preferences, and frustrations which translates to tailored offerings, personalized content, and a seamless and intuitive digital journey. A better web is what we all want, right?

What can you use session recordings for?

Session recording not only offers the benefits of understanding user behavior and optimizing customer experiences but also holds a treasure trove of unexpected insights. Let’s explore some of the ways session recording can provide valuable advantages to those who use it.

Session Recordings Benefits
Session recordings can help you in your day-to-day decision making processes
  • Understanding user behavior and preferences

Session recording shines a light on the interactions between users and digital platforms, allowing businesses to gain deeper insights into what users want, how they achieve it, or where they jump ship out of sheer frustration. It goes beyond traditional analytics by capturing and replaying the actual actions users take, providing a holistic understanding of how they engage with a website or application. 

  • Identifying usability issues and friction points

Session recording acts as a detective, revealing usability issues and friction points that may reduce the quality of the user experience. By observing recorded sessions, you can identify stumbling blocks, confusing interfaces, or navigational challenges. This insight allows you to refine your product’s design and interface, streamline user flows, and create a smoother and more intuitive experience for your audience.

  • Gathering feedback and improving customer experience

Session recording serves as a virtual feedback mechanism, offering an unfiltered view of user interactions. It allows you to view actual user experiences and helps you understand specific struggles and missed opportunities for optimization. This leads to iterative enhancements that improve the overall customer experience. And because users don’t need to describe their experience in their own words, there’s less bias in the learning process.

  • Uncovering unique customer journeys and conversion rate optimization

Product teams often assume specific user journeys as if they’re set in stone. Session recording shows them the diverse paths users take to accomplish their goals, illuminating unique customer journeys they might have never thought about. This understanding enables them to optimize conversion funnels, identify drop-off points, and streamline the path to desired outcomes. 

  • Discovering Trends and Patterns in User Interactions

Session recording acts as a time machine, allowing you to discover trends and patterns in user interactions. With a large dataset of recorded sessions, you can identify common behaviors, preferences, or struggles that users exhibit across multiple sessions. This knowledge can inform decisions about the product development timeline, onboarding sequences, marketing strategies, or sales cycles.

What best practices should you follow when using session recording?

Session recording is easy to set up and use – but there are some best practices you can follow to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Here’s a list of items to check to get your session recording up and running in no time!

Define Clear Objectives and Metrics

Before embarking on a session recording journey, it is crucial to define clear objectives and metrics that align with your business goals. Consider what insights you hope to gain and how session recording can support those objectives. For example, if your goal is increasing conversions, focus on tracking user behavior in a conversion funnel first and take note of where users drop off to narrow down the number of sessions you’ll need to watch. 

Ensure User Privacy and Consent

Respecting user privacy and obtaining proper consent are paramount when implementing session recording. Ensure compliance with privacy regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA, by informing users about the recording and obtaining their explicit consent. Transparency is key; clearly communicate the purpose and benefits of session recording to users, allowing them to make an informed decision. Implement privacy measures, such as anonymization or pseudonymization, to protect sensitive user information during the recording process (passwords, payment details, or personal data).

Manage Data Storage and Security

As an extension to the previous sections, effective data management and security practices are essential for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of recorded sessions. Establish robust data storage infrastructure that complies with industry standards and safeguards user data. Implement encryption techniques to protect data in transit and at rest. Regularly audit access permissions to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to recorded sessions. These measures are often taken by the session recording tool provider but you need to make sure that you choose a compliant one in the first place. If your industry handles very sensitive data (healthcare, insurance, etc.) it may be a good idea to explore self-hosted options.

Analyze Recorded Sessions Efficiently

Efficient analysis of recorded sessions is crucial to derive meaningful insights from the data. Consider using website session recording tools that offer advanced search and filtering capabilities to focus on specific user segments or events (why not even AI capabilities?). Combining tools to perform a quantitative and qualitative analysis of recorded sessions can help you better understand the data. Otherwise, you might find yourself lost amidst a sea of session recordings…

But… Is it secure? 

We already touched upon the need to choose a session recording provider that respects privacy on all levels. Handling sensitive information in the current digital landscape can be tricky, but difficult to avoid so no business should overlook this crucial aspect.

Session recording brings powerful insights, but it also raises important ethical considerations and privacy concerns. Navigate these issues responsibly to ensure user trust and maintain ethical standards…

  • Anonymization and Pseudonymization: Remove or pseudonymize personally identifiable information (PII) from recorded sessions, ensuring that individuals cannot be directly identified.
  • Secure Data Storage: Implement robust security measures for storing recorded sessions, including encryption techniques and access controls.
  • Limited Access: Restrict access to recorded sessions to authorized personnel only and regularly review access permissions to prevent unauthorized usage.
  • Data Retention Policies: Establish clear data retention policies that align with legal requirements and remove recorded sessions that are no longer necessary.
  • Compliance with Regulations: Adhere to relevant data protection regulations, such as GDPR or CCPA, and stay informed about any changes or updates.

The future of session recording is here!

The field of session recording is continuously evolving, driven by emerging technologies and changing user expectations. As businesses strive to gain deeper insights into user behavior and enhance digital experiences, session recording is expected to undergo exciting advancements. Let’s explore some of the future innovations and trends that may shape the evolution of session recording:

  • AI-Powered Session Analysis

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to play a significant role in the future of session recording. AI algorithms can automatically analyze recorded sessions, identifying patterns, anomalies, and user sentiment. By leveraging machine learning and natural language processing, businesses will be able to extract more actionable insights from session recordings, enabling them to optimize user experiences and make informed decisions with greater precision (and more quickly).

  • Contextual Insights

The future of session recording also lies in capturing contextual insights surrounding user interactions. In addition to recording user actions, session recording tools will incorporate contextual data such as device type, location, and user demographics. This contextual information will provide a richer understanding of user behavior, enabling businesses to tailor experiences based on specific user segments or contextual factors.

  • Multichannel Session Recording

As users interact with businesses across multiple touchpoints, session recording will expand beyond websites and applications to encompass a broader range of digital channels. The future of session recording will include the ability to capture and analyze user interactions across web, mobile, social media, chatbots, and even voice assistants. This holistic view of user journeys will provide businesses with a comprehensive understanding of the entire customer experience ecosystem.

How to choose a session recording tool?

Choosing the right tool for your needs and expectations can be tricky. Session recording tools vary  – as well as the platforms they’re part of, so make sure you do your research. To kick it off, we suggest asking yourself a few questions and drafting a list of viable candidates according to the following:

  • Understand your objectives: Clearly define your goals and objectives for session recording. Determine the specific insights and metrics you want to gather from user interactions. This will help you evaluate whether a session recording tool aligns with your needs.
  • Consider ease of use: Look for a tool that is user-friendly and easy to navigate. The tool should have an intuitive interface and offer features that allow you to efficiently analyze recorded sessions and extract valuable insights without a steep learning curve.
  • Robust recording capabilities: Ensure that the session recording tool captures all relevant user interactions, including mouse movements, clicks, scrolls, form fields submissions, and more (both static and dynamic elements included). The tool should provide detailed and accurate recordings to give you a comprehensive view of user behavior.
  • Analytical capabilities: Evaluate the analytical capabilities of the tool. It should offer features like heatmaps or click maps, funnels, segmentation, and filtering options to help you derive meaningful insights from recorded sessions. The tool should also provide integration or compatibility with other analytics platforms you use.
  • Privacy and security: Consider the privacy and security features of the website session recording tool. It should prioritize user privacy by offering options to anonymize or pseudonymize personally identifiable information. Additionally, ensure that the tool follows industry-standard security practices to protect user data and comply with relevant data protection regulations.

Remember to take your specific business requirements, budget, and scalability into account when choosing session recording software. Take advantage of free trials or demos to test the tool’s capabilities and determine if it meets your needs before making a final decision.

5 Tools to Kickstart Your Search

1/ SessionStack

SessionStack is a powerful session recording tool that allows you to capture and replay user sessions on your website or web-based app. It provides detailed insights into user interactions, including mouse movements, clicks, scrolls, and form submissions. With advanced filtering and search capabilities, SessionStack enables you to analyze user behavior, identify issues, and optimize the user experience. It also offers real-time co-browsing and collaborative features, making it a comprehensive solution for product teams and customer success teams alike.

2/ Hotjar

Hotjar is a popular session recording tool that helps you understand how users interact with your website. It offers session replays, heatmaps, and conversion funnels to visualize user behavior and identify areas for improvement. Hotjar also provides feedback and survey tools to gather user insights, making it a well-rounded platform for optimizing the user experience.

3/ FullStory

FullStory is a comprehensive session recording and analytics tool that captures user interactions and provides detailed insights. It offers powerful search and filtering capabilities, allowing you to focus on specific user segments or events of interest. FullStory also includes features like heatmaps, funnel analysis, as well as conversion analytics to help you understand user behavior and make data-driven decisions.

4/ Lucky Orange

Lucky Orange is a session recording tool that provides you with real-time insights into user behavior on their websites. It offers session replays, heatmaps, and conversion funnels to visualize user interactions and identify areas of improvement. Lucky Orange also includes live chat and form fields analytics features, enabling you to engage with users and gather feedback in real time.

5/ Microsoft Clarity

Microsoft Clarity is a session recording and analytics tool that offers you valuable insights into user behavior and website performance. It provides session replays, heatmaps, and click maps to visualize and understand how users interact with websites. Microsoft Clarity also includes features like scroll maps and element analytics, which help identify user engagement patterns and optimize page layouts. 

To put it in a nutshell…

Choosing whether to use session recording software is a no-brainer if you aim to improve the user experience of your product (sorry, Google Analytics is not enough). Apart from the obvious benefits, it’s the best shortcut you have to actually understand what your users expect from the product so you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on usability testing or interviews. We hope that we answered your burning questions regarding session recording and session replay and if you’re curious to see what we’re talking about first-hand…

See what SessionStackAI can do for your business