Tracking User Activity in Web Applications: Effective Tactics & Tools
How does tracking user activity in web applications help your product grow?
In this article, we cover how to monitor user activity to make data-informed decisions. Plus, we go over the top three web activity tracking tools that make tracking easy.
- User activity tracking is the process of monitoring in-app user behavior.
- The three main data types for tracking user activity include in-app product interactions, user activity across the customer journey, and in-app user behavior flow data.
- When you track in-app product interactions, you measure how users engage with features. You learn what the most valuable features are to your users, as well as the most neglected.
- Monitor user activity across the customer journey to see how users reach milestones, such as achieving activation. Look for areas where they drop off at higher rates so you can prioritize where to improve your product experience.
- Complete a funnel analysis to track in-app user behavior. This tells you what pages users engage with so you can investigate the path they take.
- There are three main methods to track user activity – feature tagging, session recordings, and heat maps.
- Feature tagging involves tracking clicks, scrolls, and hovers in-app without coding, gaining insights into feature usage and user engagement.
- Session recordings show how users engage with your web application using video playback. You can see how they navigate the UI and interact with features.
- Session recordings are excellent for showing you where users experience friction. See where users are confused or taking too long to move to the next step.
- Another way to track user activity is with heatmaps. They use a color-coded system to show where users are engaging with a web page. Red shows high activity, and blue shows low activity. There are three main types of heat maps – scrolling, clicks, and features.
- Scrolling heatmaps tell you where users focus their attention on a web page. For example, above-the-fold content is usually a “red zone” where users focus most of their attention.
- Click heatmaps are a great tool to identify areas of friction. It tracks where users are clicking, as well as if they’re rage-clicking or dead clicking.
- Rage clicks happen when users click multiple times in a row out of frustration, with nothing happening. Dead clicks happen when users mistakenly click on an element that doesn’t lead anywhere. Both indicate either a confusing UI or bugs that need fixing.
- Feature heatmaps help you understand feature engagement using tagging and the color-coded heatmap system.
- There are two ways to track user activity across the customer journey – with custom events and goal-tracking.
- Tracking custom events helps you track if users complete important steps in their customer journey, such as downloading a Chrome extension.
- With goal tracking, you measure how many users reach specific milestones. A goal can be one event, such as completing a checklist, or a series of events, such as completing the entire onboarding flow.
- With Userpilot, you can both collect and act on user behavior analytics. Track user engagement using feature tagging, measure custom events and goals, segment users for deeper insights, and act on the data by building educational in-app flows.
- Hotjar is a session replay tool where you can track user activity with heat maps and session recordings.
- With Google Analytics, you can track website activity via on-page behavior, website traffic sources, and goal completions.
What is user activity tracking?
User activity tracking involves monitoring how users behave, engage, and interact within your web applications.
Types of data to track user activity
There are three main data types for tracking user behavior:
- In-app product interactions
- User activity across the customer journey
- In-app user behavior flow data
Let’s explore each one in detail.
In-app product interactions
See how users engage with features by tracking in-app product interactions. Learn what the most valuable features are based on which one’s users interact with frequently.
It’s also helpful for giving you a heads-up on overlooked valuable features. Sometimes you have a high-value feature with low usage. Tracking in-app product interactions helps you see what features are being neglected, so you can dive deeper into why.
Then, improve feature adoption with better in-app guidance. You can use tooltips to drive feature discovery and prompt users to try out high-valued features.
User activity across the customer journey
On top of tracking individual feature usage, track how users reach milestones across the customer journey. See where users tend to drop off before they’re supposed to reach the next important touchpoint.
For example, investigate the steps users take from signing up for a trial to completing onboarding and upgrading to a paid account. Then spot where users are most likely to churn.
Maybe users are confused about what they should do next. In that case, create an in-app flow or checklist that guides them through your product.
In-app user behavior flow data
Funnel analysis tracks user activity by showing how users engage with your web application’s pages.
See which of your pages are the most frequented based on total page views. Check out how users navigate between pages, following their path.
You can recognize trends (or issues) based on page activity – did page views suddenly spike or drop?
You can also segment users based on the pages they’ve visited or haven’t visited, triggering personalized content for them in the future.
How to track in-app user interaction data?
User activity monitoring tools make it easy to track user activity without coding.
There are three main ways to track how users behave using these tools – feature tagging, session recordings, and heatmaps.
Use feature tags to track in-app engagement
Feature tagging measures how users engage with a web application by tracking clicks, scrolls, and hovers in-app without coding. It works by tagging UI elements in your web app. Then, it delivers analytics data showing how users engage with that feature.
You learn what features are most valuable based on high usage – or which ones are neglected. You can understand usage patterns over time to recognize emerging trends. Filter by user segment to compare how product usage differs between them.
Use session recordings to understand friction
See user engagement in action with session recordings, which is a video playback of a user’s in-app experience. You can watch as they click through and navigate features.
Are there moments where they seem confused about what to do next, clicking around aimlessly, or taking too long to make the next move?
Make the experience frictionless with UI improvements and more in-app guidance.
Use heatmaps to track clicks and activity on a page
Heatmaps track user web activity by using a color-coded system to show what areas of the page users engage with. Red indicates high activity, and blue shows low activity.
There are three main types of heatmaps – scrolling, clicks, and features.
Scrolling heatmaps display where users focus their attention on a web page. In this example, you can see how the top of the page is red, which shows that users focus most of their attention there.
Next, we have click heatmaps. This is a great tool for identifying areas of friction since it tracks how users are clicking. You can see where dead clicks and rage clicks happen.
- Dead clicks are clicks that lead to nowhere. One example could be users trying to click on an image, thinking they can enlarge it but can’t.
- Rage clicks happen when users get frustrated and repeatedly click something on the page, waiting for something to happen. Either a button or link is broken, or it isn’t meant to lead anywhere in the first place.
All of this click data helps you identify friction points. Either the UI is confusing or there are bugs that need fixing.
Finally, we have feature heatmaps. This is part of feature tagging – it’s a way to view feature usage data using the color-coded system that heatmaps rely on.
Features are colored by their total interactions – showing red for frequent interactions and blue for less frequent.
How to track user behavior across the customer journey?
To track users’ actions, you need to collect data across different touchpoints. Then you can work on optimizing the user experience with a data-driven approach.
There are two main ways to track user activity across the customer journey – with custom events and goal-tracking.
Track user behavior with custom events
Creating and tracking custom events helps you analyze user behavior. Event tracking shows you how many users are achieving important tasks in their customer journey.
For example, use custom events to track how new users are progressing through an onboarding process. Do they complete the onboarding checklist within a few days of signing up? If not, help them reach activation by improving the checklist. Try switching up the tasks to highlight higher-value features or reduce the steps to avoid overwhelming users.
In Userpilot, you can build custom events in minutes without code using a series of conditions.
Use goal-tracking to monitor user activity across the journey
With goal tracking, you define the milestones in your customer’s journey and then track their completion. A goal can be either one event or a series of events.
It helps you see how users progress toward a specific goal.
For example, you can track how many users have reached activation. Define the events a user needs to complete to reach activation and create a goal with those events included.
Best user activity tracking tools to monitor user behavior
Here are the top three tracking tools to choose from:
- Userpilot – best in-app behavior analytics software for collecting and acting on data
- Hotjar – best session recording tool for analyzing user behavior
- Google Analytics – best web analytics software for website tracking
Let’s look at each one in detail.
Userpilot – in-app behavior analytics software for collecting and acting on data
Userpilot is an all-in-one tool that enables you to both collect in-app behavior analytics and act on that data.
With Userpilot, you can:
- Track in-app user engagement using feature tags
- Measure user activity across the user journey using goals and custom events
- Gain valuable insights into user behavior with advanced segmentation
- Act on user activity data and drive user engagement with a no-code in-app flow builder
Userpilot can also integrate with complimentary analytics tools like Google Analytics and Mixpanel.
Hotjar – session replay tool for analyzing user behavior
Hotjar is a session replay tool that tracks user activity with heatmaps and session recordings. It’s a great tool if you want to see and analyze how users interact with your product UI.
With Hotjar, you can:
- Record sessions that show mouse movement, clicks, taps, and scrolling across multiple pages on desktop and mobile
- Recognize areas of friction based on dead clicks and rage clicks
Unlike Userpilot, you can’t act on the data with Hotjar. It’s strictly an analytics tool.
Google Analytics – website analytics software
Google Analytics is a free web analytics software that tracks user activity on your website.
With Google Analytics, you can:
- Collect website traffic data (such as views, sessions, and users)
- Set goals and events and see how users progress toward those goals
It’s a great tool to monitor general user activity on a website and identify drop-off pages and traffic leakage.
That being said, it’s not insightful enough to act on as it can’t track user interaction on pages.
Tracking users and how they interact with your web applications help you make data-informed product improvements. When you understand how users engage with your app, you recognize friction points that need fixing and valuable features that should be elevated.
Want to get started with tracking user activity in web applications? Get a Userpilot Demo and see how you can track in-app behavior and improve customer experience with in-app messaging.