If there’s only one often-neglected but very useful method of testing a design, it’s the use of a heat map.
Heat maps are very easy to read; they display a color on every place a click is made. The warmer the color (from completely clear all the way up to crimson red) the more clicks and hovering done on an area. They’re more useful than analytics for a number of reasons.
Heat Maps Vs. Analytics: Which Will Come Out On Top?
Analytics generally tell you what the users has done but not what the user has seen; whereas heat maps tell you more in depth details about how far they scrolled down the page, how which links the clicked on, or where their mouse what hovering throughout the visit.
Analytics tend to tell you more about travelling to your site and different pages within your site which is very useful information, don’t get me wrong. Heat maps focus on what the user is doing while on the page.
Heat Maps Tell you Where to Place the Most Important Pieces
Utilizing heat maps, you start to notice some trends that run through all websites. For example, the top left corner section of the site is where the user tracks first. This space is often wasted for irrelevant information or menus; instead it could be used to grab the reader’s attention.
After the top left, users tend to track in an “F” pattern; Top left to top right for the first major section, then a good portion of the second major section, then a skim all the way down to the bottom. This is the average reader, not every reader. You can use this information to your advantage, by including imagery and very light reading below the second prong of your F you can increase the information that your reader retains during the skim.
There’s a specific type of heat map called a “scroll map” to see how far down the readers go before giving up. This is useful because you can see, and move any important information that the readers never get to. There’s always a good idea on where to put it, it could be a separate page that is linked within the text or in the menu system, or better yet it can be removed completely and changed to an image!
By using the heat map, you can see where people get before they start skimming or where they leave your site. You can use this information to place the things you want to see in the crimson colored sections in the map of your design. By placing the important bits in the highest trafficked spots of your design you can increase your conversion rate greatly.
The Heat Levels Might Change
The time of the day and the day of the week can change your traffic behaviors, so be sure that any changes you make affect the majority of the times and days. Luckily, the majority of heat map software supports reviewing traffic patterns based on the time of the day.
Heat Maps are Only a Piece of the Puzzle
Remember that analytics, user feedback and a solid A/B testing plan is just as important as examining the heat map. If you’re going to study user behavior, you’ll need to go all the way!
And finally, don’t compromise your design too much based on data, your gut is just as good as an instrument as any one of these tools.
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