A Comprehensive Guide To Website Heatmaps

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Website Heatmaps are a must if you are trying to understand the user behavior of thousands at once.

Tired of watching hours and hours of session recordings of your eCommerce site to understand user behaviour? Are you finding it hard to isolate a pattern from scores of individual recordings? 

You need to start using Website Heatmaps. 

Don’t get me wrong. Session Recordings provide you crucial knowledge regarding the user’s journey through your site. In fact, we have an entire guide on Session Recording itself. 

Understanding user behaviour itself is crucial to increasing conversions on your website. How can you develop your site or market your products without knowing how your audience interacts with your site?

But I must admit, it is not easy to find actionable data from Session Recordings? Why? Because it’s hard to collectively process that much data to find any meaningful insights. 

After all, you’re going to have hundreds or thousands of website visitors. Don’t you wish you could collect all their data and then view them comprehensively in one go?

That’s exactly what a website heatmap allows you to do! 

In this guide, I’m going to answer all your questions regarding website heatmaps. What are website heatmaps? Why should you use them and what are the different types of website heatmaps? I’ll also tell you what information website heatmaps give you.

Let’s get straight to it.

What is a Heatmap?

Heatmaps are not a new concept. In fact, the concept of heatmaps originated in the 19th Century. 

The principle of heatmaps is simple. Heatmaps are graphical representations of data where different values of data are denoted by different colours. Previously, heatmaps were manually made by grey-scale shading. High concentrations of data were shown in darker grey and vice versa. 

Website Heatmaps work very much in the same way. 

Website Heatmaps use a red to blue scale to show you the most popular to the least popular spots on a webpage. The most frequently visited (i.e. most popular) locations are the hottest and thus marked by red. The least frequently visited (i.e. least popular) locations are the coldest and thus marked by blue. Everything in between falls in the gradient between red and blue, the two extremes. 

Let’s take a look at an actual website heatmap before we go any further:

See the gradient in the button right corner? You can use that to interpret the colours that you see on the screen. 

As you can see from this picture, the only red spot appears on the Home Button. This means it is highly clicked on. You can also see a yellow spot over the CTA button that says “Start Shopping.” This means that a considerable number of people clicked on it as well. The blue spots are spaces that the users have clicked on but to a lesser degree. 

This in particular is a Click Heatmap. It shows you where people have and have not clicked on. But there are several other varieties of heatmaps as well. 

What Are The Different Types of Website Heatmaps?

Click Heatmap

As I have just discussed, this is used to track which spots on your website receive the maximum clicks. The hottest spots are marked by red, orange and then yellow. 

Basically click heatmaps show you an aggregate of where all your users have clicked. This also helps you understand whether your CTA button is getting enough clicks. After all, this is the one spot where you need people to click on to get conversions. You can make further modifications to the placement or look of your CTA button based on this data. 

In the case of mobile users, click heatmaps track their taps on the screen. 

Move Heatmap

Move heatmaps track the mouse movements of your user as they navigate through your site. The spots where the mouse movements are maximum are marked with the hotter colours and vice versa. 

Why should you care about mouse movements of your users? 

Because people tend to move their mouses with regards to what they are searching for. Through move heatmaps you can get an idea of what people are looking for on your site. 

The following is a move heatmap:

As you can see, the top panel options are the most sought after. Besides the Home Button, the Browse Shop and Search Panel are the favourites in this website.

Move heatmaps also allow you to see if your users are completely failing to see some important spots. If that is the case, you need to change your user interface to bring these to the hotspots.

Scroll Heatmap

Scroll maps show you an aggregate of how far visitors scroll down your page.

Say you have a total of 500 visitors. 100% of them are going to see your landing page because you don’t need to scroll down for this. However, a lesser percentage is going to put in the effort of scrolling down further. 

Scroll heatmaps show you exactly what percentage of visitors bothered scrolling down to a lower zone. Only 5-10% of the audience reach the very bottom of the page. 

Scroll heatmaps actually teach you two things: 

  1. Don’t cluster everything important at the top.
  2. Don’t leave anything too important for the bottom.

Eye-tracking heatmaps also exist but these are not necessary to use while trying to increase conversions. First, they can only be used in lab settings and moreover these are too expensive. The kinds of website heatmaps that I mentioned are good enough. After all, you ultimately need to understand how people are behaving on your site. Not how they are viewing it.

What Are The Benefits of Using Website Heatmaps?

Do you use Google Analytics to understand your users’ behaviour? That can’t be easy. After all, Google Analytics only shows you a bunch of numbers. The real question is: How to interpret these numbers?

Screen Recordings present a problem on the other end of the spectrum. It’s too fragmented for you to get an overview of the user behaviours of thousands. 

This is exactly why you need to add Website Heatmaps to the mix of your existing Analytics tools. I’ll tell you why you need to have website heatmap data: 

Interpret A Large Amount of User Data In One Go

The main intention behind using any analytics tool is to gain actionable data. That is, data that allows you to actively develop your site to increase conversions. 

No one wants to spend endless hours watching visitors browse on their site for no reason. Naturally, you want to find broad patterns in user behaviour. These patterns allow you to understand what is and isn’t working on your site.  

Session recordings are great if you want to understand how your audience is interacting with your site in real-time. But session recording data does not give you a comprehensive aggregate of your user behaviour. 

For this aggregate, you need to trust heatmaps. They process a huge amount of data in one go. I’m talking about the aggregated data of thousands of website visitors! You can set a limit of however many pageviews you want to collect.

Even if you have modest website traffic, heatmaps are an indispensable tool to get an overall picture.

Comprehensive Visual Representation

Because of the colour grading, heatmaps are super easy to interpret. You don’t really need to spend a lot of brain power on this. 

The warmer colours will tell you the hotspots where people are clicking on/visiting. The colder colours will tell you the cold spots that people are ignoring. You can easily base your decisions regarding website development or marketing based on this. 

Mind you, detailed information regarding exactly how many people clicked a certain button is also available. So whether you are an experienced data analyst or a layman- you’ll get what heatmaps mean.

See How Users Are Interacting With Individual Elements of Your Site

With heatmaps you can see exactly which elements of your website are receiving the maximum attention. And also the elements which are completely getting ignored. 

If you see a spot where mouse movement is high but clicks are low, what does this mean? It means that they’re not being able to find something that they are looking for. 

You have to compare the readings of both the click and move heatmaps to understand the data.

Heatmaps allow you to understand the priorities of a large number of your site visitors. By judging their interactions with various individual site elements, you can make meaningful changes to the site.

Is Something Distracting Your Users?

Often non-clickable elements distract your users’ attention. You cannot know about these without checking your click heatmaps. 

If you see that people are clicking on a non-clickable spot, you must make changes to the UI. Otherwise, your visitors are going to interpret this as a broken link or a bug.

These non-clickable elements actually rob attention away from what you want your audience to be looking at. Discerning this pattern from individual session recordings would take HOURS! Heatmaps allow you to see the problem in a second. 

Helps You Optimise Your UX/UI

Making changes to your UX/UI takes time, effort and money. You cannot base these decisions on guesswork only.

Heatmaps give you hard data to base your website development decisions on. 

Is your CTA button in a cold spot? You need to change the position. Or maybe the message or the look of it. 

Remember, I am never once telling you that heatmap is the ONLY analytics tool you’ll need. It gives you an overview, yes. But you still need Session Recordings for detailed insights on user behavior. You still need A/B Testing after this to figure out if the changes that you made are effective. 

But heatmaps show you which spots on your UI are drawing the most attention and which are getting ignored. That’s why it’s indispensable when it comes to making any changes to your user interface. 

Increase Conversion Rate of Your Website

This is the end goal that everyone has in mind when they start using analytics tools. 

So, how can heatmaps help you increase your conversion rate?

Conversions happen in myriad ways. They might constitute making purchases, signing up for a newsletter or creating an account. 

The thing is, all kinds of conversions start from the initial landing page. If people cannot see the button that they are meant to click, they won’t convert.

The CTA button is of course the most important. But that’s not all. You can end up dissuading a customer from making a purchase in several ways. Maybe they don’t end up finding the search bar that is tucked into a corner. Maybe they cannot find the product category they are looking for on your landing page. Or maybe they had added products to a wishlist before and now the whole wishlist is missing. 

Things like these cause friction that turn away potential customers. With heatmaps, you can actually see which site elements your customers are looking for. You can also see if they are missing out on important buttons like “Sign in” or “Register.”

That’s how a heatmap aids conversions. By showing you exactly where you need to place these elements so that you can attract the audience’s attention.

Now you have a somewhat comprehensive idea of what website heatmaps are and why you should use them. If you still have any questions, let me know in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions

When to Use Heatmaps?

You should use heatmaps whenever you’re thinking of making any changes to your user interface. This change cannot just be based on guesswork. Heatmaps show you how your user base is interacting with your site. This gives you the data to base your website development on. You should also use heatmaps if your conversion rate is dropping. Heatmaps will show you whether or not your CTA button that drives conversions is drawing enough attention.

How To Use Website Heatmaps?

To create heatmaps, you will need a website heatmap tool. These will allow you to target a page that you want to track. Most people track their landing page. You must also specify how many pageviews you want to capture for a heatmap. If you have an insufficient number of pageviews, your heatmap won’t show any discernible patterns. After all your customisations are listed, your heatmap will be ready to go live.

What does a Website Heatmap Show?

Website heatmaps show you the aggregate of mouse movements, clicks and scrolling. The portions of your site which receive the maximum attention are marked in red. These are the hotspots. The blue regions are the cold spots. The uncoloured regions are the ones that are completely ignored. Heatmaps give you very particular information: Are people clicking on your CTA button? Are people getting distracted by non-clickable elements on the page?  

How does Website Heatmap work?

Heatmaps collect a large amount of user data from pageviews. And then it presents you the aggregate in a graphical format. The basic principle of heatmaps is that it colour codes the data. Where the clicks or mouse movements are the maximum, heatmaps show this in red or orange. The portions that receive less attention are marked in blue. Everything else falls into the in-between colour gradient. Heatmaps show you which portions of your page are receiving the most attention.

What are the free Heatmap tools?

The Hotjar Heatmap tool allows you to create 3 heatmaps for free. However, there is a limit on the number of pageviews that you can consider for your heatmap. Inspectlet too has a free plan that includes a website heatmap feature. VWO and Howuku allow you to create heatmaps for free but only during their free trial period. They are quite expensive otherwise. But if you are looking for the best free website heatmap tool, go with Wrytx. Wrytx lets you collect as many as 300 free heatmaps under its FREE FOREVER plan.

Does Google Analytics have a free heatmap feature?

No, Google Analytics itself does not let you create heatmaps. Its heatmap ad on extension went out of order in 2017 itself. However, Chrome does offer another extension called Page Analytics. This only allows you to see how many clicks you are getting. This is NOT a heatmap. There is no scroll map or move map available. Moreover, many users have reported that this feature doesn’t work since it has not been updated since 2017. If you are looking for a good quality free website heatmap tool, go with Wrytx. Wrytx’ FREE FOREVER plan will let you collect 300 heatmaps for absolutely no money. The best part is, you can do session recording and A/B testing for free with this plan as well. 

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Madhurima Sen Wrytx

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