The web experience IS the user experience, so many companies are looking for advanced ways to find out how users interact with their websites. Google analytics is great, but the insight there lies in marketing, not in usability or user opinion. There are three website applications I came across that take user experience testing to the next level.
MindCanvas is the most unique out of the three. The MindCanvas website says its method is to use "game-like research" and that its "results are displayed as interactive visualizations." I learned this is a pretty accurate description when I checked out their interactive demos. One demo in particular allows you to drag and drop little post-it notes onto a screenshot of a website. You can even make your own post-it notes.
On the "Admin" side, the results allow you to see how many post-its were placed on the screenshot based on label description. You can also see custom post-it descriptions and where these were placed as well.
ClickTale tracks users' mouse movements and clicks. It's almost as if the user was videotaped on the website. The program "videotapes" browser scrolls, mouse pointer positions, left, right, and middle clicks, and text inputs. You can have it track any page of your website by just inserting the specific code it generates for you into the HTML. It logs the videos and allows you to play each one individually.
For a combined look at user interaction, ClickTale generates heatmaps based on specific pages and time periods. You can see where most user attention is directed. Below, purple is the "hottest".
UserVue is similar to ClickTale except that it is in real time - "Remote User Research" as UserVue calls it. You are literally watching the user live from a separate workstation. There are three types of participants in UserVue: Facilitator, Observer, and Participant. The Facilitator sets up a session in UserVue, which is very similar to setting up an online meeting. The Facilitator then sends out an invitation to the Observers and Participant and waits for them to join. What happens in the actual session is designated by the Facilitator. He either directs the Participant what to do by using the Chat area of the program, or the Facilitator can call the Participant through a UserVue phone meeting, while the observers listen on their computer. UserVue could be very useful if specific steps are created to direct the user in what to do on the website. Directions could include anything from finding a specific product to asking for design feedback.