Have you ever wanted to record people using your website? As creepy as that might sound to some people, there are legitimate reasons to do this. A lot of companies record people using their website so they can better optimize it, make their website more disability friendly, and offer better customer support. So, today we will give you two easy ways to record people using your website.
How do you record someone using your website?
Before we go any further, let’s discuss how this works. There are a couple of ways you can record someone using your website.
First, it is possible to record the screen itself while someone is using your website. This method of recording users is much like an interview. For all intents and purposes, you might as well aim a camera at the computer screen and hit the record button.
In fact, this style of user session recording typically uses a couple of cameras and a screen recorder. One camera films the user’s face. Another camera records the user’s hands, keyboard, and mouse. The screen recorder records everything happening on the computer screen during the session. Website designers use those recordings to identify critical aspects of the web app that users are attracted to, dislike, and cause frustration.
Another method for recording people using your website is recording the DOM. By recording DOM changes and tracking when things change, you can rebuild what the user did on your website and when they did it. You can even record where the mouse moves.
So, what is the DOM?
DOM stands for document object model. The DOM is the visual part of a website. All the images, text, videos, notifications, etc… are part of the DOM. They are the objects. The website is the document, and the model is how the website is built.
Here are two easy ways to record people using your website!
There are two excellent products on the market make it easy to record people using your web app. Both products mentioned below do cost money. The second vendor does have a self-hosted, open-source version that is free, however. I have personal experience with both, and I would recommend either of them.
LogRocket is a paid-for product. They do have a free tier, but that free tier is very limited. If you choose to use LogRocket, you will need the subscription version.
You will need to include some additional calls after initializing LogRocket if you want to do things like identify individual users or track other information. Depending on the architecture of your web app, how you make those additional calls will change. For instance, LogRocket always needs to be initialized on page load, but you can attach a user to the session being recorded well after the recording starts but only after your user logs into their account.
LogRocket has a lot of good features. Each session records the DOM as well as the console and network activity, too. Session playback squarely places all session data, including the timeline, in an easy view to see when an issue occurred and what happened.
If you want to get super fancy, LogRocket can record and display sessions in real-time. That’s a fantastic tool for customer support, but that support tool comes with a cost.
My biggest complaint with LogRocket is how expensive it can get. For an app with 10K active users, you’ll easily spend thousands of dollars a month. It’s a lot of money to use as a tool for support, but it’s a great solution to see how people interact with your app.
OpenReplay is the open-source version of LogRocket. Neither product is related to the other, but both are very similar in features.
So much so that I’m not going to discuss OpenReplay’s features. Both OpenReplay and LogRocket are pretty much feature parallel.
OpenReplay does have a subscription product much like LogRocket. It is much more affordable than LogRocket, too. The subscription for OpenReplay basically pays for a managed instance of OpenReplay.
If you want more control over your server, you can install OpenReplay on your equipment. They offer both a subscription for a managed install of OpenReplay or a community version. If you choose the community version, you’re on your own. However, if you subscribe to OpenReplay, they will install it, maintain it, keep it up to date, etc…
Personally, I prefer to host my own version of OpenReplay. I’m a unique type of insane, though. There’s something to be said for letting someone else do the worrying for you.
At the end of the day, I prefer OpenReplay over LogRocket. The first time I used OpenReplay, it was in search of a cheaper but similar tool like LogRocket. It’s not OpenReplay’s price that attracts me, though. I prefer the UX in OpenReplay more than LogRocket.
Do you need help?
If you prefer to let someone do the worrying for you, give me a shout. I can help you get LogRocket and OpenReplay up and running in your web app. If you like the sound of OpenReplay over LogRocket, too, I can help you build your very own OpenReplay server.