Hotjar – A Review of a Heat Map and Session Recording Tool

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A big part of what I do as a UX Designer is trying to understand the user. What goals do they have in mind? How would they like to achieve those goals? How do they achieve them now and does the feature behave as expected? Understanding your users is key to defining the problem.

Only when you understand the problem, you could act upon it with confidence. A tool that will help you out with this, is called Hotjar.

So what is Hotjar exactly?

I would like to say that Hotjar is a tracking tool, but it’s in fact a lot more than that. Let’s go over its features.

Heat maps

Basically this is a visual representation of the clicks, taps and scrolling behavior of your user. Setting up a new heat map is really easy. Give the heat map a name, the amount of page views you would like to track, enter the page URL (a specific URL or visiting one of multiple similar pages with regular expressions) and you’re ready to go. You could also exclude certain elements on your page with the use of CSS selectors.

Once you start getting the results in, you can filter for device (desktop, tablet and mobile phone) and the type of heat map you would like to see (click, move, tap or scroll). Selecting parts of the interface on the heat map will show you the amount of clicks on that particular element.

The heat map also shows the average fold and you can easily download all heat maps to your desktop.

Heat maps by Hotjar

Find out where your visitors click on the page. A heat map is very easy to set up.


You can watch recordings of real visitors on your website and see how they click, tap, move their cursor and navigate across pages. The recordings on its own are not very actionable – I do not recommend going through these videos one by one – but Hotjar has implemented a good filtering system. That way, it’s much easier to find what you are looking for. For example, you could filter for videos in which people have visited a certain page or clicked a specific button.

Similar to heat maps, you can define when a recording should start. For example you can only record sessions with click and scroll activity or only sessions that are longer than 30 seconds.

Session recordings by Hotjar

Follow your visitors through their journey on your website. Use the filters to find the sessions you need.

Conversion Funnel

A very basic conversion funnel but good enough to show you where people are leaving your website within the funnel. Useful when you do not have a data team at your service!

Conversion funnels by Hotjar

Even the simplest conversion funnel will help you in pinpointing the exact problem area within your visitor’s journey.

Form Analysis

Similar to the conversion funnel, but applicable on your online forms. Form analysis will tell you which question was the one too many that people didn’t want to fill out and abandoned the signup.

Form analysis by Hotjar

You need all the information but people are just not filling out your form? With form analysis of Hotjar you’ll find out where people stop filling out the form.

Feedback Polls

You would like to ask your visitors a simple question? Then you can use the feedback polls. You can implement it both on desktop as mobile devices and target the audience by defining the exact time or trigger event.

For example, I’ve implemented a simple poll to get to know my visitors a little bit better and ask them about their professional background and experience. Feedback polls, in my opinion, is a very useful feature from Hotjar.

Feedback polls by Hotjar

A great and simple feature of Hotjar is the Feedback Poll.

Incoming Feedback

You can give your visitors an easy way to leave feedback in a visual way. Finding out what people like or dislike will give you the opportunity to identify certain issues.

Incoming Feedback by Hotjar

Incoming feedback allows your visitors to leave feedback about each and every section of the interface.


Do you need more insights and one question will not be enough? Integrate an entire survey. Again, you can define the trigger yourself. For example, I’ve implemented an exit intent survey in which I asked why people were leaving that particular page. By understanding their reasoning it gives me the opportunity to do something about it!

Surveys by Hotjar

In need of more information than a simple question? Create a survey.

Recruit User Testers

Last but not least, Hotjar enables you to recruit users for an interview or a test session via screen sharing (for example through Skype).

So if your user is interested in participating in a user testing session, they need to fill in some details. Some information is automatically collected, such as country, device, browser and operating system. You can then later decide which of your respondents match your criteria and contact them.

In all fairness, I lack to see the difference between using the Recruiter feature and using a simple input field.

Recruit User Testers by Hotjar

Collect user testers.

Some downsides

As you might have guessed, I’m a rather a big fan of Hotjar myself. The ease of use, how quick it is to set things up and the ease of getting the results are pretty amazing. But there are some downsides to Hotjar as well.

The first point is that you are not able to filter within the heat maps. Interested in knowing whether people coming from Google Search, Facebook or an internal page behave differently on your page? Does the referral page have any impact on where on the page people click or if they scroll deeper down the page? Unfortunately there is no way of knowing that. However, it is possible with session recordings.

A second point is that Hotjar doesn’t render any clicks of interactive interfaces within a page. For example, mega menus or drop down menus, which only work when interacting with it, will not be visible in your heat maps. You could track those links with other tools, such as Google Analytics, of course. If this feature is a must for you, then you might want to look into Lucky Orange.

One last topic I would like to point out is that you can not export or download user session recordings. You can, however, share the video with people with a URL. Only people with the URL can access your recording.

Setting up Hotjar

Hotjar works out of the box with the most popular platforms, such as WordPress, Google Tag Manager, Magento, Drupal and many more. You can always integrate the few lines of code manually.


Good news on that front because you can try Hotjar for free with Hotjar Basic. Unfortunately it doesn’t offer all features and it’s rather limited in use. For example, you can only have 3 active heat maps at the same time and they are each limited to 1000 page views. Other features are limited in a similar way. Additionally, your data will only be stored for 3 months.

If you’d like to use the full spectrum of features, Hotjar offers several subscriptions. Going from a personal plan, to a business and a plan for agencies. You can also customise your plan depending on how many page views you would like to collect.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been using Hotjar ever since they came out in beta and they have been working very hard to improve and introduce new useful features. And looking at their roadmap, a lot more goodies are coming our way! For example, they are integrating Google Analytics within Hotjar.

The ease of use is absolutely fantastic. Setting up heat maps, surveys or funnels is done within a few seconds and have plenty of options to select from. The filters enable you to find all necessary reports and session recordings very quickly.

Yes, Hotjar does have some downsides as well but if you compare them to some of the alternatives, they top pretty much all of them.

So what about you? Have you tried Hotjar already? Let us know what you think in the comments section!

Paul Olyslager

Paul is the creator, editor and most regular writer of He's also working as UX Lead for Home24, a leading online shop for furniture and home accessories, based in Berlin, Germany. Read all about Paul or find him on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
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„Understanding your users is the first step towards defining the exact problem. does just that!“
- Paul