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What Is Session Replay?

by | Jan 12, 2022

Companies looking for dynamic analytic tools may be asking, “what is session replay?” This in-depth dive into user experience can provide actionable insights and reliable analytics. With this data, companies can make informed decisions on user experience and customer service training.

What is session replay?

Session replay doesn’t just log click-through rates and other common data points. It captures and logs everything from mouse movements to scrolling information to create a more complete picture of an entire user session.

Session replay has been referred to as user experience replay, session playback, and mouse tracking. Its goal is to avoid bias in user testing by focusing on real-life user data, not test models and data from study participants.

Session replay connects the data point dots.

Another way companies can think about session replay is a qualitative research approach, not just a quantitative one. There are plenty of web analytic qualitative research approaches that give companies mountains of data points. Few, however, help connect the dots and draw conclusions from the overall user experience.

Session replay can help support teams see the steps user’s take on a webpage and debug issues accordingly.

Review these common misconceptions about session replay.

There are a few related qualitative research tools that are easily confused with session replay. It’s important to distinguish the differences between these two approaches and session replay tools:

  • Heatmaps
  • Video recordings

A heatmap is a complementary tool that captures “hot spots” on a website. It helps companies reveal popular and unpopular links, but it only shares a part of the story. This tool isn’t the same as session replay but can be combined with it for enhanced user experience research.

Another common misconception is that session replays are literal replays of a session. Instead, session replay uses key data points to recreate a session, rather than record an actual user navigating a website.

Session replay focuses on the Document Object Model.

A key concept that helps companies understand this tool is Document Object Model, or DOM. The DOM is the way users experience and interact with the web. Everything that happens in this model is recorded by session replay.

How does session replay work?

After reviewing a definition of what a session replay is, companies can explore the specific ways this tool works. The DOM can be thought of as the structural elements of an app or website. As a user navigates and mutates the DOM, the replay tool records every interaction.

Other tools record some of these interactions, but session replay pulls these different pieces together into a comprehensive replay of the events and assets that occurred in the session.

Events play a part in session replays.

An event on the web is a transfer of some information. Whether a user clicks on a link or interacts with chatbot functionality of a support automation platform, the interaction is recorded as an event. Even small events, like moving the cursor, can be recorded and replayed.

Assets are also important to replays.

A list of events with no context wouldn’t be a true session replay. To get a better picture of the entire session, companies need to see these events in the context of assets.

Assets are the HTML, images, and other features that the website is made of. Recording assets is particularly important if a website undergoes revisions, because events without context may be difficult to decipher without this information.

How can this feature be used?

It’s important for companies to identify the specific features of a session replay and how they can be used in user experience research. Companies should be sure they choose a leading session replay tool and supporting automation platform, like Capacity, for a well-rounded replay.

Session replay can log a range of website events and assets.

Here are some of the key features that a company can expect to have logged and ready for replay from a leading session replay tool:

  • Where cursors hover and click
  • When audio or video is played
  • How the window is resized
  • When mobile users have multi-touch interactions
  • If the URL changes

It’s also important for companies to recognize what isn’t recorded by a session replay tool. Reputable tools shouldn’t log and replay sensitive data entry, like credit card numbers and passwords. Removal of this information should happen automatically, but a company should also have the ability to mask additional data that is irrelevant or deemed personal.

It can solve common problems.

The goal of any web analytics tool should be to solve problems. Here are a few ways that companies can expect to streamline their user experience with session replay:

  • Solve bugs
  • Reproduce user experience issues
  • Improve onboarding processes
  • Retain data
  • Analyze user patterns

How can Capacity assist in replaying sessions?

For more information on what a session replay is, request a demo of Capacity. Discover an end-to-end service offering that includes AI-powered support, chatbot functionality, and session replay capabilities.