Website usability

The Best Heatmap Software

17 September, 2020

Our team has visited numerous exhibitions and conferences dedicated to the best click heatmap tools and software for website analysis. On some of them, we were guests, on other – participants. We always summarize the results and assess the findings of every event. Among other things, we also create a rating of the most popular questions. Usually, it includes 10-12 options related to modern software alternatives.

The most common questions were:

  • Why are your tools better than the software of your competitors?
  • Why do I need a heatmap at all?
  • Can a heatmap substitute Google Analytics?
  • Can I record user screens with the help of a heatmap?
  • Is it difficult to read the results of a heatmap?

At the end of the year, we reviewed the collected ratings to see which question was the most frequently asked. Surprisingly, it was “Why are your tools better than the software of your competitors?”

By the way, not everyone who asked this question could name our competitors or software alternatives. Some of them mentioned the tools that have similar features at first sight but, actually, complete different tasks. They even named the tools that are no longer active.

Also, a part of online marketers has asked a more precise question like “Well, for example, how Plerdy is better than Hotjar or Yandex.Metrica alternatives?”. In such cases, it was clear that they already knew the pros and cons of heatmaps and expected some practical cases.

Since conferences and exhibitions don’t give enough time to explain the differences between Plerdy, Hotjar, and Yandex.Metrica website heatmapping software in detail, we have prepared a separate article on these alternatives. It includes examples of how each of the heatmap tools works in the same situation. All tests were conducted on a separate resource – demo.plerdy.com.

This article will be interesting to anyone who understands what is usability and why it’s necessary to run website analysis with the best heatmap tools. It will be even more useful for those who already run website usability audits and monitor what alternatives appear on the market.

CONTENTS

  • How does heatmap software work?
  • What is Hotjar heatmap software? Hotjar vs. Plerdy vs. Yandex.Metrica as the main three heatmap software alternatives
  • Comparison of heatmap software alternatives: heatmaps advantages and disadvantages

How Does Heatmap Software Work?

Heatmap software records user behavior on a website through collecting different kinds of interactions, such as clicks, scrolls, and hovers. Such tools process data in real time to instantly display any significant events on heatmaps in the color-coded form. The more visitors interact with a specific element, the hotter it becomes on the heatmap. Cold colors like blue or green mean that visitors are inactive in this area and don’t pay attention to its content.

The best heatmapping software is multifunctional and consists of many tools with rich functionality. The most common elements of the best website analysis software are:

  • Click map tool. This software displays all website elements and areas clicked by visitors with the number of interactions.
  • Scroll map tool. This software shows how deep visitors scroll the page helping marketers to see whether the published content is relevant.
  • Sequences of clicks tool. This software shows in which order visitors interact with the elements on a page to reflect their navigation path.
  • Mouse hover map. This software displays how often visitors hover a specific element or place on a page.
  • Session recording tool. This software records all critical interactions completed by visitors in the video-like format.

By combining the data from these heatmaps, web marketers and website owners can get a bird’s eye view on user behavior. The software shows what people do on pages, when, and how.

What is Hotjar Heatmap Software

This heatmap software is a kit of tools for user behavior analysis. It comprises click, move, and scroll heatmaps, visitor recording software with session replays, and several additional tools for surveys and feedback collection. Some of these tools are offered for free in the basic subscription plan with limited features.

The software is usually leveraged by website owners and marketers to track how visitors behave on web resources. The heatmap information helps them improve website design, enhance customer experience, and tailor marketing efforts to every visitor.

The Hotjar tool is probably the most renowned website analytics software because of its simple interface and convenient features. It displays user behavior data on easy-to-read heatmaps, so there is practically no learning curve. To use this heatmap software, you just need to sign up for the tool, add its tracking code to your website, and create a heatmap for the page you want to target.

Hotjar Pricing

This heatmapping software offers three paid pricing plans and a free subscription. The free subscription lets you collect around 2,000 page views/day and benefit from 365-day data storage. The cheapest pricing called Personal Plus plan costs €39 / month. The pricing of Business and Agency accounts varies depending on the number of page views and other extras.

Hotjar Alternatives

The variety of web analytics tools is striking. Some of them provide effective alternatives to Hotjar and offer advanced capabilities that it doesn’t have. On the list of the best alternatives, Plerdy and Yandex.Metrica tools particularly stand out. Read more about these best competitors below.

Heatmap Software: Plerdy vs. Hotjar

At first sight, both competitors have similar features. The Plerdy tool also includes click, scroll, and hover heatmaps, offers session recording, and helps to collect customer feedback through smart forms. Besides, both tools provide free subscriptions to let customers test the available features before investing in paid pricing plans.

So what are the differences between these heatmap software competitors? First of all, the Plerdy tool enables website owners to record data on dynamic objects with 99% accuracy, which Hotjar software cannot do. It also sends SEO alerts to keep you updated on the important changes on your website. Secondly, the standard Plerdy plan is cheaper than the equivalent subscription plan of Hotjar.

On the flip side, Hotjar has a richer functionality than Plerdy and stronger community support. This tool boasts a longer history and has already released a bunch of tutorials and documents available on the web. Yet since Plerdy team continuously perfects its tool, the chances are that very soon they will fill this gap.

Plerdy Pricing

This heatmap software is available in 6 pricing plans, ranging from a free version to an enterprise pricing. For the most affordable subscription, you will be asked to pay $14/month. Growth, Business, and Premium plans cost $29, $59, and $99 respectively. If you need heatmapping software for the enterprise use, you can contact the Plerdy team to discuss your needs.

Heatmap Software: Yandex.Metrica vs Hotjar

Whereas the Hotjar tool is mainly heatmapping software, Yandex.Metrica is designed for general website analytics. It provides description reports and tracks the actions of specific visitors. With Yandex.Metrica, you can also find out where the traffic is coming from and segment the recorded information by different attributes. Even though similarly to Hotjar, it includes several heatmap alternatives, they aren’t the core features of the software.

Hence, if you want to focus on customer behavior analysis or collect customer feedback, one of the Hotjar software plans is the best choice. This tool can provide detailed insight into every important action completed on your web resource.

In case you need reporting features, segmented statistics, and more general data on your website performance, consider using Yandex.Metrica. This 100% free tool can help you understand what’s going on with your online resource.

Yandex.Metrica Pricing

Yandex.Metrica is a completely free analytics software with unlimited traffic, number of sites per account, and access to support. Such pricing makes it best for companies without a digital marketing budget.

Comparison of Heatmap Software Alternatives: Heatmaps Advantages And Disadvantages

In this overview, we are going to compare the best heatmapping software competitors based on the following characteristics and features:

  • The speed of data updates
  • Recording clicks on dynamic elements feature
  • Data on empty clicks
  • Recording clicks from smartphones
  • Scroll heatmap feature
  • How user behavior data is displayed after design changes
  • Screen recording of user behavior
  • How are heatmaps displayed
  • What Plerdy solutions are missing in Yandex.Metrica heatmaps?
  • What Plerdy solutions are missing in Hotjar heatmaps?

1. The Speed of Data Updates

Let’s start with the comparison of the speed of data updates in the analyzed alternatives.

To see a heatmap report in the Yandex.Metrica dashboard, you will have to wait from 3 to 10 minutes. During this time, the tools records and processes data to display the following result:

Яндекс.Метрика

The screenshot shows the coordinates of clicks and the relative temperature that corresponds to the frequency of clicks on the element compared to other interactions on the page.

Displaying data in the Hotjar dashboard takes approximately as much time:

Hotjar

The Plerdy tool displays the data on each page in real time regardless of its volume. So you can see clicks right after they are made:

Plerdy

The result is associated with an element (in this case, the tag). When you hover it, additional statistics opens: the number of clicks compared to other elements on the page and the number of unique session clicks.

2. Recording clicks on dynamic elements feature

A lot of websites use dynamic elements, such as drop-down menus, pop-up forms, interactive objects, zoom after a cursor hover, etc.

Let’s compare Plerdy and Yandex.Metrica alternatives based on the example of a filter pop-up which opens after you interact with a floating button:

PopUp формы

We need to check the clicks inside the pop-up form (to see which filters are the most popular), so we go to the form and make several clicks on different filters.

Here is the heatmap report of Yandex.Metrica:

Яндекс.Метрика PopUp формы

As you see, the tool displays the clicks on the main part of the page instead of the pop-up form that covers the whole page.

Now let’s open a similar report in Plerdy:

Plerdy PopUp формы

This report shows all the clicks on the filters.

Another type of dynamic content is the text shown after hovering.

наведения курсором

In the Yandex.Metrica dashboard, the data looks like this:

Яндекс.Метрика наведения курсором

Let’s see how the same information is displayed in Plerdy heatmap software:

This tool has collected 31 clicks on the text that is only displayed after hovering.

Note that in this case, visitors clicked the text, not the image. If the text wasn’t displayed (e.g. a user just didn’t hover the element), no clicks would be shown.

Plerdy наведения курсором

We have conducted a similar analysis in Hotjar. We have gone to a website page with several dynamic elements and clicked them:

Hotjar наведения курсором

The tool recorded the interaction with elements (buttons) but ignored everything that happened next (e.g. opening of a pop-up form, filter selection, etc.).

3. Data On Empty Clicks

Online marketers and UX specialists who have ever conducted usability audits know what is an empty click. It’s an accidental click made outside of the functional sections of a website. They are very difficult to interpret.

For example, in this part of the website, we have made several interactions that can be considered empty:

Информация о “пустых” кликах

Let’s check the report in Yandex.Metrica heatmapping software:

Яндекс.Метрика Информация о “пустых” кликах

You can see the empty clicks.

Now, we will try to open the same report but on the screen with a different resolution:

Яндекс.Метрика Информация о “пустых” кликах

The data has considerably moved to the side. If a UX specialist has the same screen resolution, they may get confused about the CTR of the element.

Here is the same report opened on the third device with a screen resolution different from the previous two:

Яндекс.Метрика Информация о “пустых” кликах

The dots of the clicks have shifted even more.

In the Plerdy dashboard, the results are displayed based on another principle. The clicks with no target action or intent are by default considered unimportant and not reflected:

Plerdy Информация о “пустых” кликах

You can also come across empty clicks in the Hotjar tool.

For example, while testing its dashboard in a mobile website version, we have noticed a click aside:

Hotjar Информация о “пустых” кликах

This interaction is useless since the action (in this case, several clicks in a row) was most probably accidental. It’s not a problem for a small website. Yet a serious resource with huge traffic is a different story. If several thousands of visitors intentionally or unintentionally click a blind spot (a zone outside the functional area of a website) or another place where interactions seem to make no sense, such data will have almost no value.

For instance, this data tells you nothing:

Hotjar Информация о “пустых” кликах

The main goal of Plerdy is to simplify website optimization.

Therefore, its heatmaps focus on interactions with critical elements that make up a website. Such information will be helpful to anyone working with web resources.

The next example proves the importance of this feature. We intentionally interact with inactive parts of the page (in the screenshot, these places are highlighted with red squares):

Информация о “пустых” кликах

Now take a look at the results in Plerdy heatmap software:

Plerdy Информация о “пустых” кликах

Since the interactions haven’t led to the target action, the tool automatically doesn’t display them.

On the other hand, Hotjar software displays such data:

Hotjar Информация о “пустых” кликах

And adds it to the total number of website clicks:

Hotjar Информация о “пустых” кликах

4. Recording Clicks From Smartphones

The tracking of mobile clicks is the most important part of usability audits. In many industries, over 50% of traffic comes from smartphones.

Let’s compare reports in different heatmapping alternatives featuring the clicks made on a responsive website version. For example, we click this element:

Запись кликов со смартфонов

After opening a report in Yandex.Metrica software, we see that the tool has recorded clicks but hasn’t properly segmented them. Although they were made on the responsive website version, the report looks like the visitors interacted with the main version:

YandexMetrica Запись кликов со смартфонов

Even if you go to other pages of the responsive version, the report will keep showing these clicks:

YandexMetrica Запись кликов со смартфонов

As you see, the coordinates of absolutely unrelated clicks, which were never made here, shifted to this page.

Generally, unlike its alternatives, Yandex.Metrica isn’t suitable for analyzing the behavior of smartphone users. After opening the mode for mobile devices in a browser, you’ll see this page:

YandexMetrica Запись кликов со смартфонов

In the next window, we open a report generated by the Plerdy tool:

Plerdy Запись кликов со смартфонов

Even when you go to other pages of the responsive website version, the displayed data corresponds to clicks:

Plerdy Запись кликов со смартфонов

The dashboard also shows the ratio of clicks made on different device types:

Plerdy Запись кликов со смартфонов

To conduct a full-fledged usability audit, it’s essential to segment the audience by device type. Thus, you must collect data on mobile and desktop clicks separately.

Let’s compare two screenshots featuring data on mobile users.

In Plerdy heatmap software, the navigation element with the filters hasn’t recorded mobile clicks:

Plerdy Запись кликов со смартфонов

Whereas Yandex.Metrica software shows us that somebody has clicked the page:

YandexMetrica Запись кликов со смартфонов

The thing is that the Yandex.Metrica report just mixes the actions completed on mobile devices and PCs. This element has a high CTR but on the main website version.

Let’s analyze another case. We have made several clicks on an iPhone to check the result.

Yandex.Metrica heatmapping software doesn’t display anything:

YandexMetrica Запись кликов со смартфонов

Here is the same page but with the results displayed in Plerdy heatmap reports:

Plerdy Запись кликов со смартфонов

The next case clearly shows inaccuracies in Hotjar reports. The testing was made with the help of an iPhone.

The peculiarity of the tested website is that the dynamic menu opens by default. To continue, you need to close the drop-down window.

The heatmap tool captures only the first screen (opened with the drop-down menu) and adds the clicks made on the very website to it.

You’ll have to figure out the nature of the interactions:

Hotjar Запись кликов со смартфонов

Just close the pop-up, and you will understand what the collected clicks are related to. Below is Plerdy heatmap:

Plerdy Запись кликов со смартфонов

As you can see, the pop-up overlaps the website content, which most probably points to an error on the analyzed website. Hotjar displays clicks based on the first screenshot and data pilling, whereas Plerdy shows everything in real time, which is the best option.

Also, if you slightly scroll the page in Hotjar, the result will be as following:

Hotjar Запись кликов со смартфонов

The interactions are displayed, but you don’t see the elements they are related to. It’s because Hotjar uses screenshots. So if during the page loading the menu is covered with another element, the heatmap will be inaccurate and unclear.

5. Scroll Heatmap

The scroll heatmap feature helps to determine how deep visitors scroll the page and where they interact with it. This solution is a combination of click heatmaps and scroll maps.

Here how it looks in Plerdy heatmap software:

Plerdy Тепловая карта скроллинга

All data is instantly segmented by device type. Every page consists of 5 main segments. You can check the number of clicks within the selected segment in real time (including the clicks from different traffic sources).

Yandex.Metrica and Hotjar don’t offer such a feature.

6. How User Behavior Data Is Displayed After Design Changes

Perhaps every online marketer or UX specialist that uses Yandex.Metrica heatmap for audits has lost some information. That’s why heatmaps have become an additional rather than the main tool for usability audits.

Let’s see how you may lose data.

We will test the button that opens a filter:

Plerdy Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

Let’s delete it. In Plerdy heatmap tool, a click counter will automatically disappear:

Plerdy Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

In the Yandex.Metrica report, apart from the data on the deleted object, some other information disappears.

Here are the places where clicks are concentrated (before the deletion):

YandexMetrica Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

The result after the main element was deleted:

YandexMetrica Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

The Hotjar tool has a similar problem.

To see how the heatmap works, we select a website element that is going to be deleted:

Plerdy Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

We delete it and check the result in the Plerdy dashboard:

Plerdy Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

In Hotjar, the data is displayed without taking into account the changes:

Hotjar Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

We have also come across another issue that makes the report inaccurate.

The Hotjar report on the clicks on the responsive website version includes the interactions that were actually made on the main version (for PCs):

Hotjar Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

Such inaccuracies are caused by issues with processing data from different screen resolutions. As a result, click coordinates may shift.

For example, we made clicks in 2 zones:

Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

And here is how Hotjar shows them:

Hotjar Как показываются клики когда был изменен дизайн

 7. Screen Recording of User Behavior

A popular question about the Plerdy’s features is related to visitor screen recording.

In Yandex.Metrica, this feature is provided by Webvisor – a tool that records a video of every session. Online marketers and UX specialists know about such a solution but don’t usually use it. Why?

Everything depends on the actual traffic to a website. If you have 10 visitors per day, the number of videos will be relatively small. You can easily watch them to detect anomalies in user behavior. It’s much more difficult to analyze such information when traffic reaches several thousands (or even dozens and hundreds or thousands) of visitors per month. You will waste a lot of time watching the videos or just limit yourself to several recordings.

The situation becomes even tougher when a session lasts for one minute or longer. To view 1000 one-minute videos, you’ll need 16 hours (or 2 working days)…

Obviously, the processing of video recordings makes usability audits more complex and time-consuming.

The Plerdy dashboard helps to process large arrays of information with these two solutions:

1. The Click Path feature.

Plerdy Функция “Последовательность кликов

This feature shows which element was clicked first, second, third, and so on:

best-heatmap-software-2x

2. The display of all clicks on similar pages. For example, you can view all clicks on a product card page. Since the design of all product cards within one website is similar, we can see how visitors interact with them (this feature also helps to detect the least clicked elements on similar pages). The feature is available to the Premium plan subscribers.

8. How Are Heatmaps Displayed

Each of the analyzed alternatives has different type of reports. Online marketing and design beginners usually don’t pay attention to this. However, after you start working with heatmap reports, their design becomes critical.

For example, if you decide to use the heatmap offered by Hotjar, you will get a screenshot of the analyzed page with a heatmap layer added on top:

Hotjar Способ показа тепловых карт

You won’t be able to freely navigate between the website pages.

The heatmap alternatives in Yandex.Metrica work in a similar way – the layer with the results is added over the main website version.

In Plerdy heatmap, you navigate between the pages online and the data is displayed in real time. Just turn on a sidebar, to display a heatmap.

Plerdy Способ показа тепловых карт

9. What Plerdy Solutions Are Missing  in Yandex.Metrica Heatmaps?

1. Yandex.Metrica doesn’t segment scroll data by device type:

Яндекс.Метрике нет сегментации

Such segmentation is crucial to understand heatmap data correctly. Remember that mobile traffic is constantly growing.

2. Yandex.Metrica doesn’t segment traffic by direct visits:

В Яндекс.Метрике отсутствует возможность сегментирования трафика

Does this mean that the audience which visits a website directly (through an exact website address) cannot be analyzed? Or is this data included in one of the listed categories? Well, it’s hard to tell for sure.

10. What Plerdy Solutions Are Missing in Hotjar Heatmaps?

1. A calendar for tracking clicks for the selected time period. In case you need a report for a specific period of time, you won’t be able to generate it in Hotjar.

Plerdy allows you to pick a time frame:

Каких решений Plerdy не найти

In addition to filtering data in the dashboard, you can also filter the collected clicks while navigating a website. Just choose the necessary period in the dashboard, and the website pages will display the interactions completed during this time.

2. Hotjar only generates heatmaps for the pages that were selected for tracking. This means that after the script was installed on a website, you need to specify on which pages to collect data. You can also indicate the maximum number of page displays during which the data is recorded.

Plerdy automatically records clicks on all pages. You just have to add the script.

3. In Hotjar, you cannot freely navigate between website pages to see collected data. All information is shown as a separate layer added on the top of a page screenshot.

In Plerdy, you can switch between pages to analyze a website in real time.

Conclusion

Obviously, it’s not always appropriate to compare Yandex.Metrica, Hotjar, and Plerdy. Yandex.Metrica is an analytics system, Hotjar is currently more focused on the development of a feedback widget, whereas Plerdy perfects click heatmaps that may be equally useful for an online marketer, UX specialist, or SEO expert.

In Yandex.Metrica, a heatmap is an additional feature among other report options available for analysis. Hotjar has started with heatmaps but later switched attention to other useful tools.

Plerdy heatmaps (click, scroll, and hover) is a separate product which is constantly developed by the whole team. As a result, in addition to more accurate data, Plerdy also provides a greater variety of reports on user behavior. You can check the full list of best heatmapping features in a separate post.

Of course, users are the ones to decide. So leave your comments and suggestions right under this post. We are curious to know what you think about the strengths and weaknesses of these best heatmapping alternatives.