Microsoft Clarity hit the scene last year to a lukewarm reception. Most of us web marketers dismissed it as Microsoft’s lame attempt to compete with Google’s ubiquitous and well-seasoned Google Analytics product. But as it turns out, unlike their failed attempt to wrestle some MP3 player market share away from Apple’s iPod (Anyone remember the Zune?), Microsoft’s analytics product does not try to compete with another juggernaut. Rather, Clarity serves as a gap-filler for a few cracks which Google Analytics has left open.
Like Google Analytics, Microsoft Clarity is free to use. The tradeoff being that Google and Microsoft get to look at your website traffic data too. Both Google Analytics and Microsoft Clarity are easily installed as tags on any and all pages of your website – either coded in directly or placed by Google Tag Manager. And they both measure some basic website traffic data such as Sessions, Page per session, Popular pages, Referrers et cetera. But with this basic traffic data, Microsoft Clarity doesn’t nearly offer the same level of insight and granularity that its competitor, Google Analytics, has in spades. Nor does Clarity have a way to measure goal conversion or e-commerce data. But Google didn’t either at first.
But what Clarity does offer are two features that are extremely helpful… and, well, borderline creepy.
Yes, it is true. Microsoft Clarity records (anonymously!) your users interactions with your website. This means you can sit back with some popcorn and watch some Netclix (sorry not sorry). With each visit to your site, you can go back and watch a user’s cursor fly around your site, click on links and jump from page-to-page. It is reminiscent of watching a player piano playing by itself – there is an irrational expectation of some ghostly visage controlling the experience. Once that unsettling feeling subsides, you start to realize the value of seeing actual user session recordings. Rather than having to imagine website interactions based on an amalgamation of Google Analytics data, with Clarity you can just watch the recorded interactions. Every click, swipe and scroll. This can help identify all kinds of problems with your website, including broken links and non-optimized user experiences. Oh and in case you are worried – text which the user types into a form field is rightly masked as not to reveal any sensitive information.
While it is true that Google Analytics does kind-of-sort-of have a heatmap tool, it is only available via browser extension for certain browsers and the end product is kind of clunky. Microsoft Clarity on the other hand delivers a more traditional heatmap experience, highlighting hot spots for clicking on your web pages with rainbow colors moving from red-hot to cool-blue. And with Clarity, you can also view “scrollmaps” – which is especially important for tracking mobile/tablet use, showing where users stop most when scrolling down your web pages.
Microsoft Clarity is not competing with Google Analytics and by no means should be considered as a replacement. Clarity’s most valuable tools right now are Recordings and Heatmaps. The data collected with these will most certainly be influential in assessing page design and making vital UI/UX decisions.