User experience (UX) begins with the research, design, and development of your website, but how can you continue improving your website's user experience even after the launch of your site?
In previous articles, we have discussed the many ways and benefits of collecting analytic data using services, such as Google Analytics to get page views, bounce rates, and other crucial data (check out the most important SEO and SEM Metrics to Track or read our article about the newest version of analytics, Google Analytics 4).
Analytics are vital for tracking and reporting, but how can we specifically determine how users interact with the website? The answer is heat maps.
What are Heat Maps?
Heat maps are a visual representation of how an audience behaves on a website, particularly tracking user clicks, hovering, scrolling, and other points of contact. The metrics collected using heat maps can help solve problems at the source by evaluating the website structure.
Heat maps have been around for decades and are still a powerful tool for analyzing user behavior through real data. The “heat” part in its name has nothing to do with temperature but rather the level of interaction. For example, warmer colors represent areas of a website with more interaction and cooler colors represent less interaction.
Types of Heat Maps
Heat mapping websites and software offer numerous types of charts to convey user interaction; however, these are the primary types of heat maps utilized using a real-world website example:
Click maps are a type of heat map that tracks user clicks. In the example above, a dot represents a click. Many tools allow us to filter by country, new versus returning users, search engine, browser, and other statistics to understand the audience better.
Scroll maps are a type of heat map that tracks how far a user scrolls. Sections in warmer colors are the most viewed sections on the page. Scroll maps allow us to analyze trends and pinpoint impressions on a page.
Hover maps are a type of heat map that tracks mouse movements. Out of the three heat maps listed, hover maps should be scrutinized less. Just because the cursor is hovering over an area does necessarily mean that is where the user is looking.
Why Use Them?
Heat maps open the door to so many insights. Everything from which call-to-action buttons are clicked the most to how far users scroll down the page.
Heat maps indicate clues on how to improve a website layout. Information about user behavior and site performance enables us to take action and improve based on the findings. For instance, here are some things that can be tracked using heat maps and the actions one can take to improve the website.
- Users aren’t engaging with a button. → Let’s reword the button and change its color.
- Users aren’t scrolling past the halfway point. → Let’s shorten the length of the page.
- Users are ignoring a paragraph. → Let’s rewrite and shorten the paragraph.
- Users are clicking an image. → Let’s make the image a clickable link to a page with more information.
- 80% of users are on a smartphone. → Let’s make sure our website is responsive to mobile devices.
- The average page load is 3.5 seconds → Let’s take initiatives, including optimizing images, to speed up the website's page load.
Taking the information collected from heat maps and combining this with other tools, such as Google Analytics, A/B tests, etc., can increase conversions and ultimately take your website to the next level.
Tips to Keep in Mind
- Focus on call-to-actions throughout the page. This will be one of the main insights you receive from heat maps. What buttons and links are being clicked the most? Are there any links you wished were clicked more? How can you redesign the layout or change the wording to increase clicks?
- Turn mistaken clicks into links. As discussed above, users might be clicking areas that are not links, such as headlines, images, and icons. Consider making the clicked area linkable, change the area to look less clickable, or consider removing it altogether to prevent distractions on the main call-to-actions.
- Learn trends with user behavior. If the heat mapping tool allows, filter and follow along specific user journeys through the homepage or website. Some tools even allow for playback recordings of a user's journey. You will begin to see trends that a user would commonly take.
- Compare device experiences. Analyze heat maps from multiple devices, including desktop, mobile, and tablet. Ensure that the user experience across all devices, especially the most popularly used screens, aligns with the goal of the website.
Considering Heat Maps? Read this first.
Heat maps are not for everyone. At least not right away. In order to use heat maps effectively, there must be enough data to collect. If your new website was recently launched, heat maps aren't for you yet. Make sure enough time has passed and enough impressions have been made before using heat maps to make changes to your website.
Obtaining data from heat maps is simple with online tools, but understanding how to use the information to better your business is another challenge altogether. At JH, we take the information collected from heat maps on your website to give you knowledgeable, data-driven feedback that will improve your target audience’s user experience.