The Tools and Tricks to Using Heat Maps to Track Web User Activity

The Tools and Tricks to Using Heat Maps to Track Web User Activity

Your Google Analytics revealed that X people visited your website today. That’s nice, but have you ever wondered what they do when they’re there? Where they are clicking, where there attention is focused, and how much of your content they’re actually reading? Knowing these things would give you greater insight into how your website is experienced by viewers – and luckily there are many tools out there that produce this data through what is called a “heat map.”

A heat map is a color coded representation of where visitors are focusing their attention, with darker colors indicating greater focus. Heat maps can be generated through eye tracking or by mouse clicks. In this article we’ll review both types of heat maps, their benefits and limitations, and a few tools you can use to get heat maps for your website.

Eye Tracking Heat Maps

A traditional eye tracking heat map is created by installing eye tracking software on a computer that can analyze where the user is looking and how long they linger on certain parts of the page. Some companies also use predictive eye tracking, which is a mathematical model based on algorithms and/or previous traditional eye tracking tests.

Benefits

  • Find out if viewers are focusing on the parts of the website that you WANT them to be focusing on – or if they are distracted by other less important sections
  • Can track information throughout the entire page, not just links and clicks
  • Can be performed before your website goes live, so you can adjust and improve the page before you present it to actual website visitors

Limitations

  • Traditional eye tracking requires the eye tracking software, so your data comes from research participants not actual website viewers
  • Predictive eye tracking is only as good as the mathematical model behind it
  • Tends to be more expensive than click heat maps

Tools

  • Look Tracker  – Starting at $109, Look Tracker will set up a traditional eye tracking study for your website using 3-8 users from their database which you get to choose. You choose the URL (home page, PPC landing page, etc) then the study is performed at their facility and you get a digital copy of the heat map.
  • Attention Wizard – Attention Wizard uses an algorithm to predict where people will focus their attention in the first 5 seconds. Results are 75% correlated with traditional eye tracking and mouse clicking maps. Plans start at $27/month for 10 heat maps and there is no contract so you can cancel at any time.
  • EyeQuant – EyeQuant also uses a mathematical model which is based on data collection from traditional eyetracking heat maps, statistical analysis, and machine learning – making their heat maps 90% correlated with traditional eye tracking. You can get a free peek on their website, then plans start at $199/month for 10 heat maps (however it is billed annually in advance, $2388/year). Your heat maps include attention maps, perception maps, hot spots, regions of interest, predicted user ratings, Alexa benchmarking, and clutter maps.

Mouse Click Heat Maps

This type of heat map gathers data based on where people are clicking on your website. Some websites also offer a content analysis heat map showing how much of your page is read/viewed by visitors (based on how far a user scrolls).

Benefits

  • Can be performed on live websites with real website visitors
  • Can help you see which links are getting the most action – and non-link spots where users are clicking and therefore you might want to add a link
  • Typically cheaper than eyetracking heat maps with the possibility of getting heat maps for any and all of your website pages

Limitations

  • Shows where people are clicking, but doesn’t give overall information about where other attention is focused
  • Gives you less insight about the ‘why’ of clicks and if there are other areas of the site that are stealing user attention

Tools

  • Sumo Me – Sumo Me has a number of other tools, but includes click heat maps. You install the software on your website and then you can set heat maps on any of your pages to see where real viewers are clicking in real time. The Content Analysis tool also shows a heat map of how much of your content is being read. Sumo Me is free to use with up to 1,000 clicks mapped per campaign. There are also paid upgrades for added features.
  • Crazy Egg – Crazy Egg gives you click heat map reports, scrollmap reports, and “confetti reports” so you can divide clicks by referral sources, search terms and more. They offer a free 30 day trial and then plans start at $9/month (billed annually) for 10 active pages and 10,000 visits per month.

Heat maps – no matter which kind you choose or what tool you use – can give you the insight you need to improve your website. Not only does this mean a better user experience, it also translates into more clicks, more leads, and more sales.