Heatmaps are one of the most accurate ways of seeing how visitors use your website, which elements draw their eyes and clicks, and where their interest drops off.
Using the data from heatmaps allows you to adjust and optimise your website so it works harder for you. Analysing user data not only makes your website more powerful for your business, but it also allows you to improve the user experience (or UX design).
And the best way to design your website for user experience is to see exactly how users experience it.
What are heatmaps?
A heatmap is data expressed as a literal map of heat. They are visual overlays that represent how much mouse-cursor attention a certain area is getting on a website or page, relative to other areas. The infrared display has colour variations indicating high and low levels of activity, like red, bright colours for more interaction, and lighter colours for areas of little to no interaction.
This kind of map can show if people are clicking on your CTAs, watching your videos, engaging with your forms, and whether other elements are distracting them from the key content you want them to see. All of this means you can improve the elements that aren’t working and increase the lead generating power of your site.
But what kind of data are these heatmaps drawing from to create their colourful representations?
There are two types of visual analytics used:
Eye tracking is when a user's physical eye movements are tracked and mapped to the actions they take as they scroll and click their way through a website. It is the more expensive option of the two, as the testing needs movement sensor goggles to track precise eye movements.
Mouse tracking on the other hand uses the mouse cursor instead of the users eyes to map the actions they take on the page. Mouse tracking is a lot more cost effective and accessible, so if you’re looking to optimise your website for better ROI, mouse tracking is the better option.
The data collected from mouse tracking is then interpreted into a heatmap. But there are several different types of maps, each analysing specific behaviours, like clicks, movements, and scrolling. The way you interpret the data can give you insight into a variety of different aspects of your website.
There are three main types:
Click-based track when users click on elements (or taps on a mobile or tablet) to show what people are engaging with the most on your website. Areas with a higher density of heat will show what is getting the most hits.
This type of heatmap can show very clearly if your CTAs are attracting clicks or if people are engaging with the most important elements on the page. If they aren’t, you might want to rethink design, placement, colour, wording, etc. to try to earn more clicks.
Movement refer to the mouse moving around the page, where it hovers, where it jumps from element to element. It’s the closest mouse tracking data can get to eye-tracking, without the extra cost.
These maps can indicate the level of attention that different areas of a page is getting; the more the mouse hovers over that area, the brighter the colours on the heatmap will be. On top of that, it can show the movements of the mouse across the page, showing where the visitors interest moves as the mouse moves with them, helping you see what captures their attention.
These page maps allow you to see how far people scroll down a page before they abandon it. This can help you decide where your priority content gets placed and whether you should shorten the length of your webpages.
A lot of users will spend the majority of their above the fold. This is the section of the website that they can see before having to scroll down. This is generally where you want to put your most important elements and content, but that’s not to say content lower down on the page doesn't receive interaction. Scroll maps will be able to give you a clearer idea of people's movements.
How can your business benefit?
Heatmaps can tell you what your users see on the page, what they react to, and what affects them, and this can give you invaluable information of how to improve their experience. An effective website with clear direction for visitors is the best way to boost leads for any online business.
You may have the most spectacular website design in the world, but if users are confused, don’t know where to click, rarely scroll down, and don’t spend very long hovering around elements, then it could be driving them away.
How to start
Generating the maps for your website is fairly straightforward. You have to enlist an online service, like Crazy Egg, Lucky Orange, or ClickTale to collect the data over a period of time. Most will generally have you install a code snippet on your site, usually into the header or footer.
Prices vary from service to service, but some have a free trial.
For a great review of the top services, head here.
Images via. NewBreed