How to read a heatmap? Part 2

| May 31, 2021

Heatmaps are graphic representations of the most important activities of users on your pages. Any action, such as clicking or moving the mouse, increases the attractiveness of the heatmap area by making it “warmer”. Places where users click frequently are red. The places where users click less often are blue and green. Simple? Not exactly! Heatmaps are real goldmines of knowledge about users, which, unfortunately, we often cannot decipher. So how to read your heatmap?

Correctly read heatmap is able to show you the exact history of activity on your website. Thanks to it, you’ll find out where exactly people clicked and where they didn’t click, even though you wanted them to. Do they click on things that aren’t linking? Do they click in anger or frustration? You will see which links are not working, and identify places where the links should appear (the so-called dead clicks).

When you look at a heatmap, don’t take anything for granted! What you see is a generalized view of the user’s activities. To see more details and analyze specific scenarios, you’ll have to dig into the settings. Look for new points of view, find specific segments. And I’m here to tell you how to do it.

Heatmap CUX

Heatmap in CUX

Heatmap ≠ Linkmap

When you read a heatmap remember: a heatmap is always static. Some tools scrape the page (i.e. extract data from web pages) immediately after connecting the code. Others, such as CUX, display the latest recorded view in the heatmap preview. This is especially important for the timeliness and accuracy of the collected data on user behavior.

Remember that the heatmap applies to all clicks on the page – regardless of their severity and location. Heatmaps where you can see that users click and hit the buttons perfectly are probably linkmaps. Linkmaps exclude any clicks that are not clicks on links to other subpages, and therefore cannot provide you with a complete picture of user behavior.

Pop-ups, widgets, drop-down menus

If your website has multiple states – that may be an analytical problem. All clicks and interactions with pop-ups, widgets or hovers appearing on your website will be extremely important for user behavior analysis. Unfortunately, if they don’t generate separate URLs, you won’t see a separate heatmap for them.

When analyzing a heatmap and seeing clicks “floating in the air”, consider whether these are the places with additional content appearing. Like pop-ups, widgets or drop-down menus. While you won’t see them on the heatmap, remember that they have great analytical value! They’ll tell you a lot about what the users are facing.

Tracking campaign traffic

Do you run an online business? You certainly drive traffic to your website from paid campaigns or social media. But are you following that movement properly on your heatmaps?

Remember that each redirection from external sources “attaches” a piece of text to your address. For users coming from Facebook it will be fbclid, for clicks from Google it will be gclid. If you have many campaigns or social media inputs, a heatmap for a single URL is not enough. In such a case, it is worth registering all URLs in heatmaps and using the “grouped heatmap” function. We used it with great results while optimizing the Valentine’s Day campaign for heatmap

Grouped heatmap for campaign traffic in (for rage clicks)

Logging frustration

No matter how much time you devoted to designing your perfect website or product – user frustration is a phenomenon that you will definitely encounter! Tracking user behavior patterns, the so-called Experience Metrics allows you to catch negative emotions before they turn into serious problems that threaten to decrease conversions.

Heatmaps are the perfect solution here. If read correctly, they can become a source of knowledge about users’ frustrations. Imagine a situation where some page element has many more clicks than your CTA (Call to Action). This is not a proof of its popularity, but most often of its problems. It may turn out that users cannot click on it. Thus, they increase the traffic in its area, which is distinguished by red on our heatmap. Heatmaps of rage clicks will also be useful in tracking frustration.


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