Heatmaps are a powerful data visualization tool that can help you understand how users behave on your pages. It records where they click, how far they scroll, what they look at or ignore. They show a graphical representation of data, where values are illustrated with colors and reflect the user interactions. On the scale from red to blue, they indicate the most popular and unpopular, hot and cold elements of your webpages.
By identifying patterns in user behavior, heatmaps offer great insights for improving website usability and boosting conversion rates. These tools help user experience (UX) designers, marketers and developers make more accurate improvements in the on-page features. This way each page element can be efficiently optimized to ensure an optimal experience across devices and throughout their journey.
In this article, we will go over some tips on how to use heatmaps to improve the UX of your website. We’ll discuss how heat maps work and what exactly they can tell you about the functionality of your website’s interface. We’ll also debunk some myths that surround heat maps, so read on and get to grips with the details.
What Are Heatmaps?
When it comes to websites, a heatmap is used as an umbrella term for a few heatmapping tools such as click maps, scroll maps, and move (or hover) maps. Each type helps you analyze different aspects of the user engagement on your website and can give you insights about the performance of the main design elements of your pages.
Click maps represent where visitors click with their mouse on desktop devices and tap their finger on mobile devices. It’s color coded to reflect the elements that have been clicked and tapped on the most.
Move maps track where users move their mouse as they navigate on your page. The hot spots show where visitors have moved their cursor on a page and can give an indication of where people may be looking as they go through your page.
Scroll maps tell you the exact percentage of users who scroll down to any point on your page. The redder the area, the higher the percentage.
Heatmaps can be easily added to your website. They represent a piece of code that once included to your pages, tracks and records user behaviour and engagement. You can set a heatmap for each page on your website, or you can create one based on a category with similar pages that share the same features and designs.
In addition, you can also have desktop and mobile heatmaps to compare the performance of your design on different devices. Content on a computer screen fits differently compared to content on a phone screen, so it’s important to analyze how users interact on each device.
How to Analyze Heatmap Data?
To make accurate conclusions based on heatmaps, it’s very important that the sample size of your data is large enough to yield statistically significant results. A good rule of thumb is to accumulate around 2,000 to 3,000 pageviews per page for each device to analyze properly heatmap data.
The time it takes to generate a heatmap depends on the amount of traffic your website gets. If your page receives large volumes of views on a daily basis, your heatmap might be created the same day you start collecting the data. If, however, your website doesn’t generate as many views yet, it could take a few days or weeks to gather enough data.
Now that we’ve covered some technical specifications, let’s get to the practical part of this heatmap guide.
Here is how to use heatmaps to improve the UX of your website:
1. Identify the Hottest CTAs
Having clear call-to-action (CTA) buttons with optimized placement and copy can make a huge difference to your UX design. CTAs are important for user action. They are specifically designed to achieve your goals and drive conversions. You can use them to encourage clicks, to capture leads, to attract new customers, or increase sign-ups. As such, it’s very important that users can easily understand what the button does and that they don’t struggle to find it.
With the help of heatmaps you can assess if your main CTAs are getting the traction you hoped for. By using a click heatmap you can easily see which are the hottest most clicked elements on your page. This will help you identify how effective your CTA placement and copy is. What is more you can see if there are any areas in your design that are distracting your visitors from the main CTAs and decide whether you need to add lead generating elements to those areas.
2. Learn How Deep Users Scroll
Not all users scroll to the very bottom of your page, and about half of them probably reach only to the middle. This means that any important information you have should be placed at the top i.e. above-the-fold, so users don’t miss it. When looking at the scrolling data for your page, you would most likely see two sharp color gradients – a warmer one from red to yellow at the top, and a colder one from green to blue at the bottom.
Usually the “temperature” should gradually go from hot to cold colors. If there is a very sharp switch, it means that a significant percentage of your visitors stop scrolling after a particular point and just leave your website.
To optimize this aspect of your UX design, it’s important to consider whether your page content is laid out correctly.
- Maybe you have included a particular design element like a contact form too early on your page?
- Or maybe your scroll is too long and visitors are getting lost and confused, so at the end they are not able to get to the information they are interested in and just churn away?
If you’re using a tracking tool that supports session recordings, you can dive deeper and find out the particular reason that made the user stop their journey. Seeing their exact actions will yield valuable insights on the specific element that you might have to optimize. What is more, it may give you a good idea of how to do it.
Additionally, you should identify where is the average fold on different devices, so you know where to place important information and CTAs. For this, it would be better to combine the scroll analysis with the click map analysis to get a better picture of how users navigate on your site.
3. Pay Attention to Clicks on Unusual Spots
Sometimes users can confuse certain elements on your page and click on them expecting something to happen or thinking that they’re links. Such miss-clicks often happen on images and text that show some type of emphasis on your page. Yet when a user clicks on them nothing actually happens. So, if you enhance the areas where such elements aren’t best optimized, you would be able to effectively drive conversions.
With the help of heatmaps you can identify which sections of your webpage are the most popular, then place important texts and images in those areas. If you use a move heatmap you can follow the movement of a user’s cursor. By following the pattern of the hovering you can identify if your visitor is experiencing any frustration while on your page. What is more you can see where users click the most, which text or images they expect to be hyperlinked and so on.
Such analysis can help you spot incorrect links or poorly designed pages so you can adjust them and make the user experience smoother. This may even help you find usability errors or website bugs that should be optimized.
4. Screen Size Matters
Your content appears differently on different devices, screen sizes and even browsers, so you need to make sure it’s working flawlessly on all of them. Page sections and links can move position or sometimes even disappear on some devices. What looks like a few lines on a desktop will take a lot more scrolling on a phone or a tablet. So, to have a comprehensive overview of user interactions with your design, make sure you look at the desktop, tablet and mobile data separately.
Additionally, if you can also segment the data based on the traffic source, you can discover more differences. Users coming from organic search traffic may be looking for something different compared to people coming from direct traffic.
5. Use Together With Other UX Tools
Heatmap data can give you plenty of insights on its own. It certainly looks impressive and it’s easy on the eyes so that even non-experts can make sense of it. To get the most out of your heatmap, however, it’s good to combine it with data from other tools.
When you combine heat maps with traditional analytics tools, like for example Google Analytics (GA), you will be able to remove the guesswork of why certain metrics occur. GA provides you with a lot of quantitative data like traffic sources, bounce rates, page views, etc., although they won’t explain why these actions happen or even how they happen. A heatmap on the other hand can show you some visual hints.
If a visitor leaves your page when moving from point A to point B, numerical data will only tell you that they left, but not why they did. However, if you use a session recording, you can track and visualize how that same visitor behaved on your website and pin-point the exact moment that might have caused the churn.
Recordings allow you to see the session and actual actions of a single anonymized user across multiple pages. They provide very valuable insights, because while heat maps help you visualize data from all your visitors as a whole, replays are created for each individual user.
With session recordings you see clearly how users interacted with your website. You can make many conclusions about their journey such as how long they stayed on your website, where they clicked, how far they scrolled, which CTAs got their attention and so on. By combining heatmaps with other analytic tools and data you can even see if users visited your page on their phone or computer, and whether they came to your site through a link or a search.
You can take your analysis one step further by getting feedback directly from your visitors. By adding a short survey you can learn how easy users navigate on your page, as well as what elements they think might be missing or need optimization.
Getting this feedback shouldn’t be disruptive for users. Even if it’s just a simple question poll, they can give you valuable guidance on adjusting your design in a way you hadn’t thought of before.
A/B Testing goes hand-in-hand with heatmaps. You can use the heatmap data to show how people interact with your design. Based on this data you can then create an alternative design and A/B test the two versions you have. This will help you gather useful insights on which variation is more successful, so you can adjust your webpage elements accordingly.
6. Watch Out for Heatmaps Biases
It’s very important that you use heatmaps as part of your analytics process, not as your only tool. Although visually appealing, heatmaps can be deceiving. You may gather a lot of insights, but to make the most of the results it’s essential that you know what you’re looking for when analyzing the data. Use analytic tools, ask your visitors questions, then set up a heat map, analyze it and compare your findings to other research.
Another thing to be cautious about is dynamic elements such as a drop-down menu, a slide menu, a video, etc. These can generate a lot of clicks and if your heatmapping tool is not able to create responsive heatmaps then your results may not be that useful.
Lastly when choosing your heatmapping tool make sure that it doesn’t compromise the speed of your website. There are some tools out there that can be quite heavy on your page, and the last thing you need is a lagging site.
Heatmaps are useful data visualization tools that allow you track user behaviour on your site. By analyzing the elements visitors click on and the areas they scroll through, they give you valuable information on how to adjust your design so users can meets their goals.
A great addition to traditional analytics tools, website heatmaps enable UX designers to really put themselves into the customer’s shoes. With the help of different mapping variations it’s now possible to see the exact steps visitors took while on your page, so adjustments to content can be made accordingly.
Are you ready to make the most out of your heatmap analysis? Let us know what you have discovered and feel free to share how it helped you improve the UX of your website.