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Session Replay vs Data That Paints The Whole Picture

Form Optimisation

If seeing is believing, watching video replays of your customers interacting with your forms should be all you need to optimise form performance.

But as we know, the eye can only take in so much. And it relies on the brain to interpret it accurately and without bias. Which, given human fallibility, rarely happens.

In contrast, Formisimo’s form analytics platform captures and interprets so much more. More data, more information, more insight. And all without human error or personal prejudice to cloud the picture making your insights even more accurate.

In this article, I set out the reasons why the data data provided by Formisimo can get you more conversions. And how it can also help build a user friendly interface far faster and more accurately than taking a session replay approach.

What is a Session Replay?

Users on session replay
Session replay is a visual representation of a user’s interactions with a website, app or online form. You might know it as session playback, session recording, user replay or user experience (UX) replay.

Although the replay may appear to be a video recording of a user’s session, it is actually a reconstruction of the events as they occurred rather than a genuine recording.

Systems sitting in the background take detailed notes about the user’s time spent on the website, including any forms visited. The notes are used to rebuild the scenes recreating the session as it occurred.

This means that, unlike watching a video, session replays are able to capture data like mouse movements, clicks, typing, scrolling, swiping and tapping. Some tools mine this information for insights and use the data to segment users by behaviour or interaction.

All the data collected with user session replays is qualitative. It can be used to help you identify usability and optimisation issues within your forms and web design. Plus, you can see which parts of your site are user friendly and which are troublesome or ignored.

Sounds Good – What’s the Problem?

scratches the surfaceOn the face of it, a session replay sounds like it will give you what you need for form optimisation. But in reality it barely scratches the surface which is why equivalent approaches are not used in other areas of business.

Let’s take insurance. Car insurance premiums are not decided by insurers going on a trip in someone’s car and watching them drive. That’s because one person is not indicative of all motorists: they could be sitting with a poor driver, someone who takes lots of risks or someone who is very risk-averse.

Base their premiums on this unrepresentative ‘data’ and it’s highly likely they would get things wrong. Which would result in them over-charging for policies and pricing themselves out of the market. Or under-charging and failing to amass sufficient income to pay out claims.

Either way, basing business decisions on small data sets are likely to result in disaster.

Of course, insurers don’t do this. Instead, they use large, representative data sets to assess the risks associated with different groups of individuals.

If You’re Time Poor, Session Replays Aren’t For You

 Time Poor
Using session replays is fine if you have plenty of time and if your forms aren’t linked to your turnover. But for most businesses this isn’t the case.

Using a session replay to determine whether your web design is user friendly takes a lot of time and often means employing an skilled team to do the work. Depending on the length of your form, you might need to spend anything from several minutes to several hours watching a session replay.

And by the end of that time, you’ve only assessed a single session.

Base your form optimisation proposals on the small amounts of data that session replay provides  and you’re playing a high-risk game as it’s highly unlikely to be representative of your users.

There is a solution: watch more session replays.

But how many would you need to see to create a representative data sample size? If your organisation relies on high volumes of traffic, session replays simply won’t cut it. You’d need a team of assessors sitting for days or weeks, to analyse sufficient amounts of data.

You also need to consider what you’re watching the session for. Session replays often tend to focus on the user journey and not the end goal, so if your aim is to increase conversions, session replay might not be the best option. Ask yourself: is my objective to improve design and feel or to increase the number or quality of conversions?

More Challenges With the Session Replay Approach

Challenges With the Session Replay Approach
Relying on people to review a session replay introduces human error into the process as they miss important actions or interpret particular on-screen activity incorrectly.

Scale this up on a session-by-session basis and one tiny error on each assessment can amount to a significant skew in the overall results. Not something you want to use as the basis for expensive form design changes. Not to mention the potential catastrophic impact it could have on how user friendly your forms are.

Reporting to Stakeholders and the Potential Risks

What happens if your form optimisation proposal is rejected and you’re asked to accumulate more or different evidence to back up your plans?

You’re back to square one building more time into the optimisation timeline and leaving your company with less-than-optimised forms. Which could mean long delays in improving revenue for the business.

Take the case of Expedia who made a single change to one of their forms that resulted in an additional $12m in revenue per year. For each month their form was not optimised, they were losing $1m.

Which makes speed of the essence when it comes to improving your forms.

Session Replays = Privacy Nightmare

There’s one other major risk inherent with a session replay and it’s not something you want to mess around with in a post-GDPR world: privacy.

Princeton security researchers found that:

“…the extent of data collection by these [session replay] services far exceeds user expectations; text typed into forms is collected before the user submits it and precise mouse movements are saved, all without any visual indications to the user.”

Their research also found that some companies recordings are linked to user’s real identities. This means sensitive information – like medical records and credit card details – input as part of a registration or checkout form could be leaked to third-parties as part of the recording.

Which all adds up to a huge risk for your business.

Formisimo’s Marketing Leading Form Analytics Provides a Better Solution

Formisimo’s Marketing Leading Form AnalyticsFor organisations that want reliable, quality and repeatable information, you need a vendor that paints the whole picture.

Each set of form analytics data is based on thousands of data points by:

    1. Measuring engagement with your form on a field-by-field basis
    2. Capturing every user interaction in detail including key presses, clicks, focuses and more
    3. Enabling you to set parameters to accrue sufficient data to ensure it’s representative
    4. Capturing, on average, 1,200 data points when a website visitor engages with your form – multiply this
    5. by whatever a representative sample means for your business and there are millions of pieces of data ready to be interrogated
    6. Focussing on behavioural data and translating this into insight without the need to share data that has been entered –  no personal information is stored
    7. Mining this huge data set to deliver 59 metrics on form behaviour – all data is interpreted by powerful industry-leading software removing the risk of human error and giving you results you can rely on

Big data sets can be overwhelming but Formisimo makes your results easy to understand by producing them in the format of easy-to-interpret charts, tables, funnels and graphs. How long this takes depends on the amount of data you want to collect that would form a representative sample. For sites with high numbers of visitors this can be quick and easy.

Formisimo Means Actionable Insight Founded on Quality Data

All the key questions you want answered are provided through a suite of reports. And it’s clear where you need to make your forms more user friendly thanks to our field healthscores which quickly highlight underperforming fields.

All this data is established quickly and with next to no human resource required: simply deploy the software and let it go to work.

The faster you have your data, the quicker you can produce your form optimisation proposals. And if those in charge want additional insights, you can simply interrogate the system and find the information they want.

Some of our clients take Formisimo into meetings so they can do this on the spot and move their project forwards without delay. Not something you can replicate with a session replay.

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With Formisimo form analytics in your digital strategy, re-evaluating your amendments will be much faster and significantly less resource-intensive than analysing a large number of session replays.

Using a session replay approach to inform your online form changes is the equivalent of basing a general election on 10 people’s votes. To generate sufficient data and insight to optimise your forms with confidence requires significant time, money and human resource to conduct large numbers of session replays.

Fail to do this and you’ll base your form optimisation on false insights that will lead you to make bad web design decisions.

Instead, bolster your session replays by adding Formisimo to your strategy. You’ll quickly gain the actionable insights you need to make your forms more user friendly. And it will all be based on anonymous metrics and the reassuring interrogation of reliable data.