When a computer user visits a website, he or she enters on some page, which may or may not be the homepage, and travels through the site in some fashion before leaving, most often directing this sequence of events through a series of mouse clicks. A clickstream is a record of the user’s sequence, not just of a single website but of his or her entire use of the Internet, including pages visited, time spent on the pages, and — in some cases — webmail ‘To’ and ‘From’ addresses. The actions and/or habits of a single user or many users can be studied when their clickstreams are collected and analyzed.
Commercial and free clickstream software is available to webmasters to allow tracking and analysis of clickstreams on their sites. Examples include the Site Overlay function in Google® Analytics or dedicated software such as CrazyEgg® or OpenSymphony® ClickStream®. Enterprise solutions are offered by Clickstream Technologies® and others.
The clickstream is important in web design, as well as Internet marketing and advertising. It is the focus of clickstream analysis and clickstream mining, both of take advantage of captured clickstreams to gain a fuller understanding of visitors’ behavior. Clickstreams reveal both where users are clicking and where they aren’t, and clickstream data can be combined with other types of analytics. The data from a clickstream analysis be used to reorganize site page layout, reconfigure an entire website, or sell advertising space based on a history of site and page performance.
Some divide the analysis of clickstreams into e-commerce style analysis and traffic path analysis. The former shows not only the page sequence and time spent on pages but also items placed in and/or removed from a shopping cart and the ultimate purchase. The latter reveals the number of pages served, loading time of the pages, use of the browser’s back and stop buttons, and at what point in data transmission the user moves on to another page, i.e., whether the user is leaving before the page is fully loaded. Some analysis may be delivered as charts and graphs, but this is not the limit. CrazyEgg®, for example, provides heatmaps and a confetti page overlay display that shows both the relative location of clicks and also identifies the referrers.