A heat map is a diagnostic tool that helps businesses understand what users do on website pages. Some of the information it can display includes where on a page users click, how far down a page they scroll, what areas on the page they look at and even what parts they ignore.
Heat Map Overview
In an analog form, heat maps have been around for a long time. In the late 1800s, officials in Paris used hand-drawn heat maps to track social trends across different districts. Thanks to the visually simplistic interface, heat maps were a perfect tool to modernize for the electronic age. And thanks to quantitative analysis, the sheer abundance of information one can derive from a heat map is astonishing. According to Crazy Egg, an online eye-tracking application, heat maps are the preferred tool for translating intricate statistical data. “Doctors, engineers, marketers, sociologists, and researchers of every kind use heat maps to make complex data sets comprehensible and actionable.”
How Heat Maps Work
Software that powers a heat map first collects data on a web page and then displays data points—not as a bar graph or a slice of a pie chart, but as warm-to-hot or cool-to-cold clusters. Here is an example of what you see when using heat map technology.
Red spots represent the most popular real estate on a webpage, including CTAs, hotlinks, and information that visitors spent the most time focusing on. Green and blue represent areas that attract the least attention from visitors.
Heat maps are interesting to look at and provide a lot of important information, but behind the scenes is robust, data-crunching software that provides users with in-depth analysis about how people interact on a specific web page—what they click on, where they click, what they ignore, how far down a page they scroll. It is the perfect tool for optimizing website engagement.
Heat Map Colors
Heat maps show you a site’s analytics by using different shades of the color prism. And the reason these types of reports are so popular and why they work is because humans intuitively assign meaning and emotional context to different hues. Shades that range from yellow to orange and red represent heat, intensity, energy, and excitement. The darker the colors get, the more intensity it emits. Conversely, colors in the green to blue and purple spectrum represent cold, calmness, and serenity—and also, inaction and passivity.
The key to utilizing the color spectrum to represent user activity or passivity is by featuring hues that blend sequentially and progressively between the point of opacity to absolute density.
Heat Map Benefits
Heat maps are great tools for SEO and marketing strategy. Imagine how much a business can improve its click through rate (CTR) if the web designer can visualize exactly where on a web page users spend the most time. Also, there are a variety of heat maps that have different diagnostic goals.
- Click heat maps show user click patterns.
- Movement heat maps track mouse movement.
- Scroll heat maps computes how much visibility different areas of a web page receives by visitors
- Geo heat maps identify audience locations
- Attention heat maps illustrate and quantifies web page engagement
Who Should use Heat Maps
Sgt. Joe Friday, as portrayed by Jack Webb on the 60s-era TV show Dragnet, used to say “Just the facts, ma’am.” Heat map technology is for anyone who just wants pure, unadulterated data without projections or guesswork.
The secret to the success of this tool, says Crazy Egg, is its simplicity. “Charts have to be interpreted, tables have to be understood, but heat maps are self-explanatory, intuitive.”