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What is a Heatmap Tool and Why Use One?

Heatmaps are a highly-effective web analysis tool, especially for those who are [numerical] data-analysis-averse and highly visual. You can see change happen right before your eyes, while reviewing the visuals next to the data panel.
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Have you ever wondered what users do when they come to your website? Do you wonder what sort of user journey they take as they scroll, click and peruse your webpages? Just short of looking over their shoulder, you can use a website heatmap tool to give you an inside look of your website’s user activity. Taking advantage of the best heatmap tools out there, you’ll be able to glean valuable information for your website analysis.

What is a Website Heatmap Tool?

A heatmap tool gives a visual representation of specifically collected and combined user data from your website visitors. Rather than a sea of data in numbers, you get to view the popular and less popular parts of your website in color coding laid over your page. Think of it this way: if you had an infrared camera that picked up body heat, it’s redder where the warmth is. This is a similar tool that denotes where the “hot spots” are. The redder the area of the webpage, the more often a user has paused, clicked (or seen) the area. It’s typical to see red areas over your CTA buttons, for example.

There are generally three types of website heatmap tool maps: scroll, click, and move maps. The scroll map shows how far down a user has scrolled until they left the page. The click map shows where the users clicked. The move map shows where the cursor rested and moved around on the page. Again, if the area is red, it’s popular–a hot spot. If the area is blue or green, it’s not used much. All three of these map types can create a complex picture of your users’ experience, if you know how to use them.

Choosing a Heatmap Tool for Your Website

Some heatmap tools are part of a larger optimization toolkit, but others are standalone heatmap tools. Most have free versions, which can be useful when determining what will fit your needs. When you find one you like, it may be worth bumping up to a paid premium version. Here are a few of the most widely used and dependable website heatmap tools to start checking out:

Hotjar is a popular heatmap tool that allows marketers to create heatmaps, tracking user movement. The results can be split up by device (mobile/tablet/desktop) and the tool includes a survey and feedback tools to help determine which elements on your website aren’t performing (and why).

CrazyEgg can allow the website owners to segment results out. This segmentation helps identify who is clicking and how they’re going through the website on their journeys and pathways. If the journey is atypical from what your team imagined, and there is a trend leading away from the hypothesized user pathway, you can use the info to recreate your UX (or alternatively, you can go with the flow and make the new pathway smoother for your users).

Mouseflow gives a better idea of the step-by-step user process, giving a full playback option of the users’ website movements for the website owner. It shows the user journey from beginning to end.

Attention Insight works well for more data-driven information (while you’re still using heatmap visualization patterns to guide you). This heatmap tool scores your website by comparing its results with other competitors within your field. It also provides attention percentage scores to your CTA buttons and other key buttons. All of the heatmaps are created with AI-power, giving the website owner a “clarity score” of your website design for any new users that come to your site through AI-testing.

Lucky Orange lets you track your user’s experience in real time with a heatmap overlay on your browser, allowing you to kick up the data visualization a notch. Additionally, you can get more in-depth data through filtering your results by device and/or date.

Why use a heatmap tool for your website?

  1. Easily visualize the data.
    Visual learners–you’re in luck. Finally, the raw data points can come alongside the visualizations, showing data at a glance. With color-coded appearances, you can spot trends with your users in their clicks, or you can see issues that wouldn’t otherwise be apparent. Red shows a high-traffic / high-click area, whereas blue signifies a low-traffic or low-click spot. When you’re ready to look at specifics, you’ll be able to see and sort all the data you need. In short–colors are the new numbers (but numbers are good, too.) With heatmaps, your webpage can show you where your visitors are going, what their scroll patterns are, and what they’re clicking on (or trying to click on). Website heatmap tools give you an inside scoop on your user’s process, and can indicate where your website is working, and where it needs to be revamped or redesigned.
  2. Improve conversion and landing pages with A/B testing.
    Heatmap tracking shows how your visitors interact or move through your site. This data can allow you to perform A/B testing, swapping out different CTA buttons or phrases, different menu order, or create a landing page with two different header options. If the users end up clicking through more on one of the headers, you have a winner! Do keep in mind: Heatmaps tell you what, not why. Along with your UX team, you will have to hypothesize and then determine why a user acted a certain way on the webpage. Adjust your “experiment” by smaller increments and keep some control to isolate the issue more distinctly. Then, keep attempting to prove your hypothesis correct as you move forward with your different iterations (one at a time!) and get ready for real, data-backed improvement.
  3. Data-informed optimization wins out. Heatmaps allow you an inside look into your users’ processes. For example, users may click on a web object, thinking it’s hyperlinked. You may see this reflected on the heatmap with a warmer (orange or red) color. If you don’t have a hyperlink there already, you can choose to create a hyperlink for that object to solve that user issue. When you’re able to pick the actions you want to analyze and select pages to focus on, you are ready for data-driven optimization.

Where to use your website heatmap tool

Don’t know where to start with the heatmap tool? Choose higher traffic web pages so you get a good sample size. This can include your top product landing pages, your homepage, your contact page, or FAQ page. Aim to have at least 100 users come through to verify patterns and trends in your user activity, rather than rely on what might be coincidences from a small sample group. The launch of a brand new webpage is another good opportunity to use heatmap tools.

How to use website heatmap tool results

Finally, the practical application part of the blog. After you get your results and you’ve analyzed them, you can make some measured adjustments. For example:

  • Adjust the order of products on your e-commerce site, putting the most popular at the top. (Don’t make your users scroll for what they want–they might miss it!)

  • Add a hyperlink where users are clicking, believing there’s a link (shows user intent). Even if it might be a rage click!
    After using scroll maps in your heatmap tool, determine where your users are pausing to read. If they’re only reading the beginning of your content, make your content either shorter or more engaging to give them what they need.

  • Additionally, if they’re not getting all the way down to the CTA button, place the button higher, above the fold, and see if that aids in your CTR.
    If you have a high bounce rate, the heatmap tool results may show you where users may be falling off the pathway and clicking away from your site.

    Keep in mind: Heatmap tool results don’t tell you everything. For example, be sure to account for tab-overs when looking at click maps. If a form fill looks like it didn’t get many clicks, your users probably used the tab key to move from space to space in the form.

    Cool is out. Hot is in.

    For color-coded heatmaps, at least. Heatmaps are a highly-effective web analysis tool, especially for those who are [numerical] data-analysis-averse and highly visual. You can see change happen right before your eyes, while reviewing the visuals next to the data panel. And remember: popularity contests count when it comes to content. A heatmap will show you what you want to focus on – whether changing it, or keeping it the same! When your website performance improves, your customers’ journey towards conversion can, too.

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