What’s the difference between Analytics and Hotjar? An overview of methods and tools used in user behavior analytics.

Every owner of an online business who cares about fast growth of his business, knows that using analytics tools is nowadays a must-have, especially if you want to leave your competitors far, far behind.

Large companies build divisions and hire people dedicated solely to analysis. What should you do when you can’t yet afford hiring analysts but are aware of the value that analytics tools bring? First of all, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you need the data for?
  • How exactly should this data contribute to the decision making process
  • Which data monitoring and gathering approach will be the most convenient to your business?

To make your lives easier, I’ve prepared a two in one guide. It includes a short overview of methods and a subjective overview of tools available on the market that every business owner should know. What’s the benefit of knowing about those tools? How should data coming from different sources be analyzed? Let’s focus on a few fundamental parameters worth knowing if you want to further develop your business.


When you need to…

  • Obtain information on how many people visit your website,
  • Learn more detailed demographic data about your users (age, sex, location),
  • Check how many people left your site without interaction (bounce rate),
  • Check sales conversion,
  • See the traffic heat map of your website…

…you need to use a tool for quantitative data.

Examples of tools: Google AnalyticsHeap Analytics.

Google Analytics is a powerful and complex tool which provides excellent opportunities when properly set up. In such a way, if you want to make more advanced analyses, consider double checking the proper configuration of the tool. Otherwise, you might realize you’ve been gathering inessential data. Interpretation of the collected data is a totally separate matter though – if you want quantitative data to reflect reality, it has to relate to a large number of users. The data will not show you individual cases or isolated behaviors, but rather average results.


Google Analytics will not show you heat maps. But Heap or the below mentioned qualitative analytics tools will.

Oftentimes, heat maps are treated as a ready-made analysis report, when in fact, they’re just one of many visualization tools. For example, thanks to the heat maps you don’t have to analyze each visit separately; instead, you can observe general behavior patterns. However, you should bear in mind the fact that heat maps can be analyzed in various contexts. In the era of responsive websites, you need to consider what you analyze and in what context. Thus, when you choose a tool, you should make sure that it is equipped with a system that tracks changes in the website DOM, or allows to filter through time range to generate the heat maps. It will allow you to interpret your website’s results before and after changes.

Certainly, quantitative analysis tools have much larger capabilities. However, you need to start somewhere, right? It’s well worth noting that people and their behaviors are not raw numbers. For complete understanding of user behavior it’s always beneficiary to have a broader perspective and be aware of the objective and context of the research.



On the other hand, when you need to…

  • Deepen and broaden your knowledge on quantitative data,
  • Broaden the context of user visits on your website,
  • Understand why somebody has left your site, why he hasn’t made a purchase, or got in touch,
  • Learn about the behavior of individual visitors…

…you need to use a tool for qualitative data.  

Examples of tools: cux.ioHotjar.

You can keep trying to boost conversion on your website by creating potential solutions to users’ problems. But, wouldn’t it be more efficient to have a closer look into user behavior and learn where and why they give up the purchase?

For example, if users have difficulties with a web form, you can change it around as much as you want. By observing what users exactly do, however, you are able to diagnose what specific fixes this particular form needs, what fields should be excluded, etc. When users have difficulties navigating your website or get lost right before making a purchase, you can, obviously, change the order of tabs or remove content you dislike, but wouldn’t it be more profitable to check where exactly they get lost?

Broadening research context will allow you not only to see how many visits you noted recently but also how many people are on your website at a given moment, or what exactly they are doing. For instance, when it comes to time spent on a website, while Analytics’s data will only show you that the website had been opened for X period of time, with cux.io you are able to see how much time a user spends on a particular sub-site, or how long it was active for.

Monitoring each visit will allow you to better understand the behavior patterns of your users, detect anomalies in their behavior, and diagnose problematic areas.

By combining qualitative and quantitative data, you can observe and understand various scenarios that users enact when using a digital product. Deep observations of particular user visits will allow you to not only better understand them, but also find tailor-made solutions more effectively. This will result in larger sales of your product or service.



The third method that will allow you to know your users better and, in this way, understand their purchase decisions is to ask them about their opinions. You can do it by asking open questions (when collecting qualitative data) or closed ones (quantitative data).

Therefore, if you want to:

    • Know your users’ opinions about your product,
    • Get feedback about the product,
    • Inform your users that you respect their opinion…

…use a tool that will facilitate conducting questionnaires or colleting feedback from users. 

Examples of tools: Mixpanel, Survicate.


It’s important to remember that this method will not provide easily interpretable data about user behavior. According to a PWC report, 56% of organizations do not go past analyzing the feedback, resigning from applying the gained insights. Most probably, the reason is that companies need time and experience to draw insightful information and recommendations.

Is it, then, worth relying on user opinion if you don’t use it later on?

In my opinion, it is. But it’s also worth remembering that users’ declarations are oftentimes largely exaggerated. My experience has showed me that if you ask users what they think about the changes introduced on, for example, a website, you can experience three possible scenarios:

  1. They refuse to take part in the research. If they don’t feel extreme emotions (fondness, or aversion towards the organization) they might not want to get engaged.
  2. They want introduce completely new solutions. Users, asked about their opinion, might start feeling like experts and will be coming up with new features and functionalities.
  3. They reject everything we’ve created. By nature, people don’t like changes — if they get used to something, they want it to stay this way.

The undeniable benefit of conducting declaration based research is the fact that users are able to give feedback. Not only will you gain an interesting collection of ideas, but also positively influence the image of your brand. You will also give users the sense that you respect their opinion and want to strengthen your relationship with them – something that is very important from user experience point of view.


An interesting research hybrid is the ability to tag user’s visits on your website. In practice, you take an analytics tool and generate code which you can, then, send to an individual user or group of users. Thanks to this, you can observe a visit of a particular user, know their demographic data, and thus, observe behavior in natural environment. For additional insights, you can ask specific questions via a communicator, give users tasks to complete, or receive feedback. At the end, you generate a heat map for a tagged group of users and in this way have a clear image of what your target audience get involved in during an interaction with your website or app.

Which method should you choose and which tools should you use? It’s definitely worth testing each and every one of the abovementioned tools. However, you must consider several additional aspects, such as the features or constraints a tool has, opinion about a particular solution, or accessibility and professionalism of the tool’s customer service. For many business owners analytics is still something new, but it’s very beneficial to understand it sooner than later if you want to have insights into your online business. Therefore, apart from useful functionalities, you should account for the support from the vendor when choosing a tool to implement in our organization. If you don’t feel like an expert in the field, it’s important to have access to professionals who will support you regardless of the situation and will be able to answer your questions. And when you run out of time, maybe they’ll hand you a ready-made report?

Originally published in polish here 
Translation: Magdalena Sobieszuk