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The Failure of Web Analytics – 3 Alternative Solutions

by Justin Palmer - December 1st, 2007

Just the other night, my wife wanted to buy a purse on an eCommerce site that I have done extensive work for. Just out of curiosity, I decided to stand behind her and watch her interact with the website. As I jotted down notes as she went about shopping, I began to notice things I had never considered before. She tried clicking on things that weren’t intended to be clicked on. Certain areas of the pages caught her attention that I didn’t consider noteworthy.

I was surprised by how much I learned from this simple situation. As I thought about it, I realized that my Google Analytics are not telling me the whole story.

In my opinion, traditional web analytics fail in the following areas:

  1. They do not record micro actions (movement of the mouse, interaction with forms, etc)
  2. They do not show where the user is looking (eye movement)
  3. Most do not record users clicking on non-linked elements
  4. They only show where the user has gone, not where they intended to go

When you begin to watch a user actually engage a website, you pick up on clues that you would never have learned from your analytics. You notice when they are lost. You notice when they are frustrated. You notice when they want to click on something that wasn’t intended to be clicked on.

With these weaknesses in mind, I started researching alternative web analytics solutions. Below are some great solutions I’ve found:

  1. Crazy Egg: Crazy Egg offers heatmap visibility, a unique confetti map, and extremely easy setup. The confetti layout allows you to see everything a user clicks on, including non-hyperlink elements. Their pricing is pretty decent, and they offer a free account for up to 5,000 monthly visits.
  2. ClickHeat: ClickHeat is an open source web analytics based on PHP and MySQL. Like CrazyEgg, it offers a heatmaps, allowing you to see the click hotspots on a page. I haven’t installed it yet, but it looks promising.
  3. CamStudio: Not exactly intended solely for web analytics, CamStudio is an open source Screen recording software that’s perfect for in-house usability testing. For one of my clients, I’m planning on bringing in a dozen or so web users, and record them performing common tasks on the clients website.

Be sure to leave comment if you’ve used any of these solutions or any others.

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9 Responses to “The Failure of Web Analytics – 3 Alternative Solutions” by Justin Palmer

  1. Jerry Says:

    You missed one: ClickTale. This one records everything (mouse movement, scrolling, keyboard inputs), all in realtime. You can basically watch someone’s complete visit from beginning to end. I took part in the beta program… it was pretty good and offered a completely different viewpoint than heatmaps. My only concern is privacy. I don’t feel comfortable knowing every movement I make is recorded, anonymous or not, which is why I removed the script from my site. But if that is not of concern, then you’ll definitely want to check it out.

  2. Linda Bustos Says:

    Great article, Justin. Especially the CamTasia idea. When I worked with a web design studio we did user tests (recorded facial expressions and audio with iSight camera but not the screen itself, unfortunately) and it was helpful, even with only 5 users. According to all those usability experts out there 5 is about all you need.

  3. Persuasive e-Marketing » 2007 » December » 05 Says:

    [...] Palmer from Palmer Web Marketing shares a story on the failure of web analytics– Basically he observes his wife using an e-commerce site. He notices she looks and interacts [...]

  4. Persuasive e-Marketing» Blog Archive » Looking past metrics: understanding user experience Says:

    [...] Palmer from Palmer Web Marketing shares a story on the failure of web analytics– Basically he observes his wife using an e-commerce site. He notices she looks and interacts [...]

  5. How to Troubleshoot Your Own Website - Shocking Truths about Your Website Says:

    [...] Visual Web Analytics: Traditional analytics are great, but alternative web analytics solutions offering a more visual approach are becoming increasingly useful. Google Analytics offers a [...]

  6. Website Optimization Tips - 12 Ways to See Your Website for the First Time Says:

    [...] allows you to see your website through the eyes of your visitors and offers an experience that traditional analytics software just can’t. The ability to see micro-actions, such as the cursor moving or visitors interacting with a form, [...]

  7. Silvia Says:

    Hi Justin! In the interim between your post and this day the web analytics industry has advanced significantly. There is a piece of software that actually can show you, besides where your visitors are looking at and clicking on your site, where they wants to go.

    With Logaholic Web Analytics ( you can see what words were typed in the search engine of your site, so that you know what people were looking for there.

    This is just a tiny part of the features of Logaholic, which are available for a one-time charge without any monthly subscriptions.

  8. Christopher Says:

    Update on Crazy Egg – which I love. There’s not a free option anymore. Cheapest is $10/month.

  9. Guido Tapia Says:

    Hi Justin,

    You should try Mouse Eye Tracking ( Its free and quite comprehensive (heat maps, click maps, page navigation visualizations, etc).



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