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Session Replay 6 min read
Melanie Crissey posted on

Record and Playback and Session Replay tools may sound similar but they're wildly different.

Have you ever wondered:

"Record and Playback" and "Session Replay" (or "Session Playback") are two similarly named but different types of tools used to help you deliver better customer experience. Despite the names, each serves a vastly different purposes within the software development lifecycle ("SDLC").

Let's define them both, compare the two, and look at which solution will make the most sense for you.

Record and Playback is a common feature for automated user interface (UI) testing. With a Record and Playback tool, you can hit ' record ' and begin clicking on elements within a user interface on a website or web app. The Record and Playback tool will record your interactions so that later you can hit ' play '. The tool will then recreate your interactions—every navigation, click, or keystroke–in the browser, exactly as if you performed them yourself.

These scripted interactions can then be manually kicked off to run later as needed. As the automated test runs, it will return error messages if the automated testing tool fails to complete one of the interactions as programmed.

Understood through the Jobs-to-Be-Done framework (JTBD), automated UI testing via record and playback does the job of repeating manual interactions as a check to make sure key functionality works as designed.

These test scripts can also be integrated with other systems to:

What are some Record and Playback tools?

Common record and playback tools include:

Benefits and trade-offs: Record Playback tools.

Record and Playback tools can be helpful for:

Here are some trade-offs to consider:

It's worth noting that some Record and Playback tools work in designated browsers. If you're looking to import your recorded tests into a suite for ongoing monitoring, you'll need to make sure that the script output from your Record and Playback tool is compatible with your monitoring service. (For example, some synthetic monitoring solutions will accept Selenium IDE tests but not Java-based Selenium tests; it's important to know the difference!)

Session replay tools are designed to help site owners understand how real visitors or customers interact with their websites or applications. With a session replay tool (E.g. FullStory ), you vicariously experience what it was like for real customers to interact with your site (or app). Session replay tools record all user interactions in the browser in order to reproduce those events. The result looks something like a video though it's technically more complex.

For a deep dive into session replay, see .

Benefits and trade-offs: session replay tools

Session replay tools help you:

If you have a session replay tool that captures everything and easily shows you errors, you basically have 100% coverage for monitoring all of the performance problems with your live site. And, you'll never have to wonder how to replicate a bug, because you'll have the interaction and console errors logged in one place. That's super valuable!

Here are some limitations of session replay tools to keep in mind:

Is session replay right for you?

Let's break it down:

Nope—session replay isn't the thing to solve that problem. But if you Google "automated UI testing," you'll probably come up with something useful.

Yes—session replay is the tool for you!

But why not both?

For most organizations, it probably makes sense to have both record and playback and session replay tools in their tool kits. These tools can be complementary. In fact, Session Replay can be powerful for informing which user flows will be most valuable to record and automate for proactive monitoring or testing.

For example, through watching session replay, you might uncover a popular customer journey on your website that you wouldn't have necessarily predicted as business-critical. Once you know how many of your customers rely on that path or set of features, you can use Record and Playback to build a test specifically for that critical customer flow and make sure that it never breaks when you deploy new code.

That's a proactive way to prevent customer frustration and reduce time spent responding to bugs, too! So yeah, why both?

Do you use record and playback tools session replay tools? Let's hear about it!

What's "record and playback?" Is that like "session replay?"

Great Post Christine – so well written. I’m that computer person… straight on (breakfast later)and I’ve already taken one thing personally already today. E mail tends to suck me in and before I know it half the day has gone (probably guilty of attention splatter too!). I wish I’d read your post before taking things personally today.

I have experienced colluding recently too and felt very bad about it afterwards.. It’s easy to blame others and get wrapped up in self-victimisation, especially if you can find a listening ear!! I’m getting better at not doing this but it’s still a work in progress, as you say especially when you’re tired. I also have mind reading as my ‘thinking error’ and this doesn’t help under times of stress and pressure as I think I know what other people are thinking and doing (when it’s not the case!)

This post has helped me already – Thank you!

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So if I’m critical of myself…I should take that personally? 😉

Sorry, it helps if I can laugh at my neurosis! But I do notice that the more judgmental I am, the more I take things personally. There’s some profound truth to “Judge not and ye will not be judged”

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Kathy says

Once again, hitting the nail on the head with this post!!! I am sitting here with my sister Cindy and read this to her. We spent a weekend with sisters, aunts and cousins down in Virginia Beach and all the bad things you describe above happened. We decided we are going to send links to this blog to all the people we were with. You have a way of putting things so eloquently and in a way that doesn’t sound like an attack. Thanks so much for being so poignant and to the point in a way that really hits home. Meer!!!


Alan says

Hi Christine You wrote: “That’s because much of what we call friendship in our culture is little more than disliking the same people and staying stuck in our own versions of the truth and requiring that our friends agree with us.”

Did I get it right? Friendship is for you being with people because you both hate the same others? If so, it is scary! Yes you can feel closer to people because you hate the same things (like with your colleague, both of you hating the boss), but friendship is about sharing. you’re friend with someone because you have something in common with him, most of the time you can not say what, but there’s something in both of your personalities that make you feel good. And that’s what makes a best friend: Someone with who you can share everything.


Oh and also if I might add, I believe that you SHOULD take things personally. Yes you can be comprehensive, you can try to think twice before over-reacting, and you shouldn’t believe that everything in the world turns around you, but forcing yourself not to take things personally is frustrating, as it means you had some feeling at first and you restrained them. On the long run, it can make you feel sick inside, imagine about the story of your friend, if the truth is that she didn’t care to spend some time with you and just imagined an excuse when saying she wanted to give you space. Imagine it happens again another time you see her, different excuse, same thing. And again. And again. Yes you shouldn’t be friend with her, you should get mad and spend your time on real friends, but no, you will say “I don’t take it personally”and still waste your time for someone who doesn’t want your friendship. Please take no offence, because no offence is meant in my message, but we as human are living to have feelings, stories, experiences, good or bad, and not taking things personally is liking forcing you to step back from this, but hey, that’s your life! It might hurt sometimes, but that’s not a reason to step back from it.


elaine1 – thanks for your thoughts. colluding will often drain you and make you “feel bad” as you wrote – but guilt is just one more thing that keeps it going. that’s the pattern. choosing not to collude is actually something you do for yourself in addition to being for the other person. so try to just notice that ‘feeling bad’ energy and let it pass – while making the decision to see the temptation coming on next time.

brad – indeed you should!

hi kathy – given that family is our primary relationship – it makes sense that the biggest triggers would happen among those people… and it can be a great lesson to just watch yourself in those situations. set the intent before the next family gathering to really observe your own insides. “ah, yes, here i go feeling judgment, and here comes resentful me, and hmmm, there’s my temptation to puff up”…etc etc. it can be a great way to remain clear and centered, and eventually just be present to each person there.

alan – no, you didn’t get that right. what i wrote was that in our culture, it is often acceptable that friendship is about sharing the same dislikes, rather than holding each other up to higher standards. my best friends and i rarely talk about other people – unless it is to let the other know that we were triggered by something and wish to shift that. And i’m not sure we’re coming from the same place in defining what “taking things personally” means. It’s not about spending time with people who upset you just so you can say “i don’t take things personally.” It’s about recognizing where you lose your power and clarity in a situation. So, from that place, I don’t believe it serves anyone to take things personally.


Holly says

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