A Review of FullStory

FullStory is a tool that helps you monitor the people using your website and get instant feedback based on what they do and which features they try. It does this by letting you watch user sessions that look exactly like what your users experienced (by using some more advanced tech than a lot of other user-recording software out there). And it works on every kind of website, including single-page apps built with modern frameworks (again, unlike a lot of other software packages)!

A screenshot of FullStory

I think apps that help you diagnose usability problems, like FullStory, should be very usable themselves. After all, the people who build these apps are constantly trying to solve usability problems—they form stories and tests around them and collaboratively build new features around them. Plus, they have the benefit of using their own app to solve their own problems!

FullStory meets this criterion hands-down, but it provides benefits far beyond usability. In diagnosing your own app’s problems, you might get jealous of the beautiful FullStory interface, which is sleek and well-designed. It’s one of those interfaces that just makes you feel like the answer you’re looking for is right around the corner, and it usually is.

I know of only one way an app like this comes to be: through hundreds, if not thousands, of small, incremental, detail-focused changes in a user-centered design process.

I wanted to email the FullStory team and say, “You’re done. Really. That’s it. Game over. There’s a 50/50 chance the next move you make is going to be a mistake, so it’s probably better for you to just call it a day. Focus on answering phone calls, sitting by the fireplace, and responding to blog posts praising your app, because beyond this point things are only going to get worse if you press a button or twist a knob.”

It’s just that good.

Don’t believe me? Try it out.

I signed up at midnight, woke up the next morning, watched half a dozen user sessions, and immediately found a bug I wouldn’t have found any other way. A user was stuck on a page that didn’t exist anymore because he’d followed a link I thought I’d changed across the app—but I’d missed this one. Instead of waiting for someone to email me about it (which could’ve taken weeks or months), I was able to see the problem and put out a fix within an hour.

If you’re a web developer, I know you probably find yourself building out a page and wondering, “What if I misspelled a word in this success message or replaced this orstatement with an and statement instead? Would anyone ever notice? How long would it stay broken?” Some of these sorts of problems automated tests can catch. But FullStory is like automated testing for usability.

You can search your code for hours and write tests for everything you can think of, but you usually can’t catch everything. You might catch every logical bug but overlook the fact that users can’t find your new button because it’s too small or too out of the way.

Even if your app is in an expected state, that doesn’t mean the user will understand it—and if the user doesn’t understand it, that’s a bug.

These are exactly the kinds of errors FullStory helps you address. By watching a few user sessions (which are pretty much guaranteed to look exactly how your user experienced them), you get to see what they encountered and how they got there. It’ll even show you front-end script errors! If you’ve ever debugged a front-end application before, you know that kind of information is priceless.

I, for one, am a fan. I can’t recommend FullStory enough. The service is really expensive, but when you’re catching the same class of usability errors you’d catch with a service like UserTesting.com, and it’s catching them automatically with real users and with little to no intervention from you, the value outweighs the expense.

You should still conduct real, in-person user testing, of course, but if you use something like FullStory, maybe you can use this valuable user testing time to focus on testing more high-level stories and stop worrying about the small usability bugs so much! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s