Microsoft’s Clarity is a new, and free analytics tool which provides website usage statistics, session recording, and heatmaps. Compared to Google Analytics (and other analytics platforms), it’s a little basic. But it’s robust and very easy to use. it also has some interesting features.
What is Microsoft Clarity?
What Microsoft Clarity does is record information about users who visit your website, and take note of how they behave. It summarizes that information in the form of dashboards and allows you explore and highlight interesting segments and behaviors.
A screenshot of Microsoft Clarity’s website, at clarity.microsoft.com.
These records might help you to better understand your users and their problems. You might be able to use that insight to improve your website. It also provides basic information on sessions, interactions and engagement, and segregates user by device type, country and other dimensions. For all of these views, you can explore heatmaps and session recordings.
Key features and reports
Dashboards & metrics
Like other analytics tool, Clarity provides an extensive overview in the form of a dashboard. This contains all of the usual kinds of metrics you’d expect; session counts, total users, page view details, and similar.
Funny enough, the dashboard omits some of the metrics you might expect in a tool like this. There’s no ‘bounce rate’, no ‘conversation rate’, and none of the kinds of tables you are used to from tools like Google Analytics. You also can’t compare performance across multiple date ranges or segments.
microsoft clarity dashboard
The dashboard of a Microsoft Clarity account
Beyond the usual metrics, Clarity does its best to provide some clever insight. Specifically, it tries to identify when users encounter friction. Special reports like ‘rage clicks’ and ‘excessive scrolling’ are used to show th8 users had been confused or annoyed. By digging into these, you get to find out where your website is letting your users down. Fixing those issues would be a great way to improve engagement, reduce bounce rates, or increase conversions.
One of the great attractions of Clarity is that all sessions are recorded. Clarity logs every of the mouse movements, scrolling, and clicks of every visitor to the site. It can also be viewed and replayed at any time in the future.
The official video from Clarity below shows how this looks in action.
Each of the dashboard panels provides shortcuts into these kinds of video recordings. You can drill down to see recordings from popular pages, from frustrated users, or from specific browsers.
Clickmaps & heatmaps
Most analytics tools help in understanding which pages users navigate to and from. But it’s still much harder to understand how they behave whilst they’re on a specific page.
Clarity’s heat maps tools record where users click, and allow you to explore and filter this. A view like this helps you understand what your users want, and, where your designs and layout might be causing confusion.
Clickmaps from Microsoft Clarity, for Yoast.com’s blog homepage
Clickmaps are split out into desktop, tablet and mobile versions. This helps you explore behavior by device category.
The functionality here is a little basic, but a future update promises more options. To this effect, we’re expecting the addition of scroll maps. Those which will visualize the content people see as they scroll down the page, rather than where they click. This is a different type of data, which gives very useful insight in helping understand how users navigate.
Filtering & custom tags
You can use filters to see data with specific criteria, if you want more insight. For example, you might want to see session recordings where the user filled out a form, or, see heatmaps from pages where users seem frustrated.
Combining multiple filters can be a great way to dig down into user behavior, and to find problems to solve.
filters in microsoft clarity
Filtering sessions recordings in Microsoft Clarity
When you start using custom tags is when filtering becomes really powerful.
You can send extra information to Clarity with a little code. The information could be about information like the page the user is on, the user themselves, the weather, it could be about anything at all. You can filter your reports to see metrics, session recordings and heatmaps for sessions and pages where they fired once you fire those tags.
Some great use-cases for custom tags include tracking ‘conversion events’ on your website, like when users buy things, register accounts, or fill out forms. Filters which are less obvious, but useful might include tracking whether the user is logged in, or, what type of page they’re looking at.
You can filter your dashboards and reports to see how specific users behave when that tracking is in place. Unfortunately, there’s no way to compare filtered data (to all data, or to other filtered data). That means that you won’t be able to, for example, compare the ‘conversion rate’ across different custom tags.
You can learn more about how custom tags work, and see example code in Clarity’s ‘Filters’ documentation.
What Clarity isn’t…
It’s not really a bad thing that Clarity isn’t a comprehensive, all-in-one analytics platform. From our perspective, it even seems like intentional design decision, because it’s not trying to be everything. It’s trying to be a session recording tool, heat mapping tool, and ‘user behavior overview’ tool. And that focus helps it stay focused on what it says it wants and get to do a good job.
Because of those limitations, you should probably think twice before throwing away all of your other tracking tools. Here’s why:
It isn’t a replacement for Google Analytics
It’s clear that Clarity isn’t a replacement for Google Analytics. Though there are some interesting metrics and reports, Clarity isn’t fully-featured enough to act as your primary analytics tool. If you are one with a complex site with multiple goals, active marketing campaigns, and lots of moving parts you could say that it’s true.
But you can run both tools side-by-side. They even integrate together, with just a few clicks. Once enabled, Clarity passes information back to Google Analytics. That lets you see which Clarity recordings are associated with any of your Google Analytics sessions. That way, you get ‘the best of both’ platforms.
Activate Google Analytics integration.
Connecting Clarity to Google Analytics, from docs.microsoft.com/en-us/clarity/ga-integration
It isn’t a replacement for HotJar
There’s also a lot of overlap between Clarity and industry-leading session recording tool, HotJar. HotJar has been around for a long time, and has built a feature-rich product for session recording, heat mapping, and gathering user feedback.
What Is Hotjar? 4 Reasons Why You Should Use It
Hotjar is a session recording and feedback tool.
However, HotJar doesn’t provide the same kinds of metrics that Clarity does. It doesn’t have Clarity’s clever frustration metrics and also lacks an overview. Still, we wouldn’t recommend that you replace one with the other – either way around. These are different tools, with different uses.
And again, both of these can be run in parallel. Unfortunately, there’s no easy interface for connecting them. You’ll need to either do some custom coding, or use a platform like Google Tag Manager to get them interacting. The way in which HotJar handles custom events and tagging is almost identical to Clarity, this gives room to apply the same filters and tagging to each.
Installing and configuring Microsoft Clarity
Getting your tracking up and running requires that you sign up to Clarity and create a ‘project’. Once that’s done, you need to get the tracking code onto your website.
At the time of writing, there’s no Clarity WordPress plugin. That means that getting set up requires you to copy-paste the tracking script into your site template, or, use a third-party system like Google Tag Manager to manage it.
Either way, the core Clarity script is very simple – just one block of code to paste into the page, and you’re done. There’s even a walkthrough of the steps (for each approach) in their documentation.
Privacy & consent
Clarity hides the details of lots of content by default, just in case it contains sensitive information. You may have noticed in Clarity’s demo video (or if you’ve been playing around with it yourself) that it’s very careful when it comes to hiding sensitive data.
Default masking on the Clarity website.
Clarity hiding potentially sensitive content, from docs.microsoft.com/en-us/clarity/clarity-masking
Most numbers, images, form contents and more are automatically hidden in all recordings and heatmaps. It means you’re very unlikely to accidentally store somebody’s address or credit card details. That’s a good job, because there’s currently no way for users to opt out of this tracking, and, no way to delete individual recordings without deleting your whole account.
If there are specific content areas which are being hidden which you don’t think should be, you can control what Clarity hides or shows by adding HTML attributes to those elements. There’s more detail on how to do that on their help page.
Note that, by way of comparison, it was only until recently that HotJar enabled this kind of ‘masking’ feature by default, and much less ‘rigorously’ than Clarity. Clarity has definitely gone to lengths to appear to be privacy-aware; despite that it stores data and videos of individual user sessions.
You should definitely explore Clarity’s privacy FAQs if you’re having trouble with the collection, storage or how Clarity hides information.. You may also wish to seek legal counsel based on the particular setup of your own website, tracking, users, and local laws.
It’s open source
Clarity is still a very new product, which has so much work to be done on before it’s ready for extensive or commercial usage. At the time of writing, there are missing features, ‘coming soon’ notices, and only partial documentation.
But Clarity – or at least the technology which powers it – is open source. You can browse (and contribute to!) the source code at github.com/microsoft/clarity. We’d like to think that this might mean that Clarity might be brought up to par by individuals and organizations who may have felt ‘trapped’ by or into Google Analytics.
At the very least, it’ll be interesting to observe the product and its roadmap as it evolves, and to contribute to some of the conversations and decisions around that.
Clarity is still a subtly different product from both Google Analytics and HotJar, though it has heavy feature overlap. It has some of the best features of both and brings some interesting new metrics to the table.