Does Hotjar Slow Down Websites? (Yes, by Almost 1 Second)
Hotjar is a popular tool that allows you to visualize user behaviour on your site. However, a growing chorus of users is reporting a significant slowdown of their sites after installing the software.
But the company has repeatedly reaffirmed that while every installed tracking code inevitably affects loading speed, theirs have a "minimal impact on your website performance."
Then again, pretty much everyone says that, so what gives?
Today, we'll uncover exactly how much Hotjar and its alternatives impact site speed, as well as possible solutions.
Does Hotjar slow down your website?
Every single thing that you put on your site, be it tracking codes or images, will affect your website’s performance. There is no doubt about that.
The real question is: is the trade-off of slower site speed in exchange for the user data worth it? Let's find out.
How much does Hotjar impact site speed?
Disclaimer: Howuku's impact speed is obtained from internal testing due to its absence from the Github dataset.
Every four months, millions of websites are crawled using Lighthouse, Google's open-source tool for assessing website performance. The data was then compiled and posted on GitHub, which you can view here.
As you can see, Hotjar impacts your site speed by almost a second, which is half of Google's recommended load time fo 2 seconds.
In fact, Hotjar is one of the slowest among the most popular heatmap tools. Take a look at what customers have said online.
"Even though the heat maps and user recordings were useful, our website was significantly slowed down after we installed, so much so, that it took over a minute for our blog to load."
"Potentially slows down the site. Loads the entire js even when only running a poll, so puts unnecessary load on the page speed."
To make matters worse, the average website utilizes about eight tracking tags. If just one script from Hotjar slows down your website that much, imagine installing seven more!
Hotjar's response: Asynchronous loading
In a document posted on its official website, Hotjar asserted that it is "designed to have minimal impact on your site performance.”
One such method is asynchronous loading – processing multiple website elements simultaneously. These elements can be lines of code, Meta ad pixels, or heatmap software scripts.
Think of it as a waiter serving 20 dishes simultaneously rather than one at a time.
Naturally, this will make a website load faster, but all the evidence still points to Hotjar being a speed liability. Why is that?
The reason is every single element on your website (e.g., tracking tags, images, fonts) increases page weight -- the amount of resources required to load on a website.
Going back to the waiter example. One waiter serving 20 dishes is still a heavy task even when done simultaneously because it is well, one waiter and 20 plates full.
According to testing done by a Quora user, his website's size was 1 mb before installing Hotjar. However, installing the script increased the page size by 0.47mb, meaning that Hotjar is equivalent to half the total website size.
While his site's 1 mb size is relatively small compared to the global average of 2.2 mb, an additional 0.47 mb from one script is still 25% of the average website size.
We all know that slow loading speeds kill conversions, but website owners are left without a choice because the user behavior data from heatmap tools is too precious.
So you have to sacrifice one: optimal website performance or user data.
We suggest two simple solutions to resolve this conundrum. You can either install heatmap tools only during critical periods and/or opt for a faster and lighter alternative.
Install heatmap tools only during key periods
One way to minimize the impact on page speed is to install heatmaps only when needed. The most critical times are usually during marketing campaigns, website revamps, or sales seasons.
Accurate analytics and data about user behavior are the foundation of successful marketing. Heatmaps and user recordings completely remove the guesswork because they allow you to see how people interact with your website.
Most people install heatmaps for a marketing campaign or during a website revamp. Unless you run a large business, you don't need to collect this data daily.
You could install user behavior analytics tools for market research and track performance during the campaign. Once you've obtained data, simply remove the script from your website.
Then, reinstall the tool before your next campaign or whenever you need to collect customer behaviour information again.
Web revamp projects are complex and take into consideration many different aspects. This includes SEO, conversion copywriting, and user experience (UX). Neglect any of these areas, and your new website's performance will tank.
This is where heatmaps and user recordings come in. They help verify that all the website design best practices are followed and identify any weak points that may negatively affect user experience.
You need heatmaps and user recordings if you're undergoing a web revamp. But after the project's completion, you can simply uninstall the tools as they’re not needed anymore.
Holiday seasons always result in online traffic surges, which are also prime opportunities to collect ample customer data. The most prominent sales seasons are:
- New Year's (January 1)
- Valentine's Day (February 14)
- Mother's Day (May 14)
- Black Friday & Cyber Monday (November 25 & 28)
- Christmas (December 25)
Most online businesses require heatmap tools only on these dates. While they would be good to have throughout the year, it's better to uninstall them after the sales seasons because you'll benefit more from the improved website performance.
Opt for a faster and lighter alternative
If uninstalling and reinstalling once every few months is too much of a hassle, you could use one of the many Hotjar alternatives that are faster and more lightweight.
Below is an overview of each alternative's business-level plans.
How to choose the best heatmap tool
There is no single best heatmap tool because they all have pros and cons. You should ultimately choose based on your business needs and budget. That said, here are a few things to consider when choosing a user behavior analytics tool.
Some heatmap tools come with features such as A/B testing, surveys, and website content personalization. Having more features are convenient but they contribute to heavier page weight and heftier prices.
Howuku has the most additional features, such as unlimited A/B testing, website content personalization, and survey forms. Moreover, it allows you to disable unneeded features anytime. However, CrazyEgg is not too far off, lacking only the website personalization feature, which is crucial for A/B testing.
Effect on website performance
Heatmap tools are frequently used alongside other software (e.g., marketing automation). Your site loading speed slows down the more codes you implement, so we recommend choosing an all-in-one heatmap platform that can replace other tools.
At the same time, you should consider the heatmap tool’s impact on speed. While faster is naturally better, anything below 200 ms is good enough.
Mouseflow dominates the charts with an extraordinary 68 ms impact on speed, and it is not even close. The runner-up, CrazyEgg, is 2x slower even though it only contributes to 124 ms, which is still impressive compared to others in the industry.
However, Mouseflow lacks additional features like A/B testing, so you'll have to install another tool with that feature. Howuku eliminates that by providing helpful additional features and reduces page size by allowing you to switch off unneeded features anytime.
Choose the heatmap platform with sufficient user sessions based on your needs. We recommend a plan with enough sessions to track at least 80% of your monthly traffic and upgrade flexibility to keep up with your business as it grows.
Howuku's Pro plan provides 100,000 session recordings per month for three websites. In comparison, every other alternative provides only 15,000 monthly sessions, albeit some accommodate unlimited websites and users.
In other words, Howuku provides more user sessions than all the above alternatives combined.
Howuku's pricing plan is the cheapest, but it is not too far off compared to the rest. So, we recommend choosing based on the value you're getting rather than the price.
Think of it in terms of how many session recordings you are getting per dollar paid. Naturally, you'll want to get more session recordings at a lower price, both now and in the future.
Furthermore, you should consider the additional features that the heatmap tools provide. Having additional features means you don’t need to install more software, leading to lower costs and page weight.
Aside from the pricing and user session capacity, Howuku also comes with additional features like A/B testing, website personalization, and survey forms. However, it is worth noting that CrazyEgg also has most of these features except for site content personalization.
Hotjar is the most popular heatmap tool for tracking visitor behavior. However, it is one of the slowest compared to other alternatives and impacts your site speed by almost 1 second.
We recommend choosing faster alternatives such as Mouseflow, CrazyEgg, and Howuku because they all get the job done just as well. But if you insist on using Hotjar, you can procure the data for a month or two before uninstalling it. That way, your site speed won’t be impacted as much.
If you're an existing Hotjar customer looking for an alternative, check out our irresistible offering here.
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