So Hot: Heatmapping For Growth

August in Kuwait really gets you thinking about heat!

A heat map is a data visualization tool that showcases how visitors interact with a web page using a color-coded system. Cast your eyes at maybe the most well-known heat map of all-time (at least by digital marketers), which shows that people read in an F-shaped pattern on the web.

F Pattern Layout (Courtesy: Nielsen Norman Group)

In most heat maps, the red and yellow portions of the map indicate a highly viewed areas with red signifying the highest, and the blue areas are where visitors looked the least.

This particular data was gathered by the Nielsen Norman Group from an eye-tracking study that monitored visitors’ gaze as they encountered text on a web page

Heat maps from eye-tracking experiments are the most accurate, but they’re also the costliest and most inconvenient to produce. Studies like the Nielsen Norman one above usually take place in a controlled setting (lab, in-house) with a research team or pricey hardware that observes your visitors’ eyes as they interact with your web page. These can cost upwards of several thousands of dollars to run.

Because hiring an entire team of researchers is out of the question for most businesses, many entrepreneurs instead turn to mouse (the hardware not the device)-tracking software. As opposed to monitoring actual eye movements, mouse-tracking software monitors visitor mouse movement, including details such as clicks, scrolls, and hovers. Haptic equivalents for mobile apps exist as well.

Since this method doesn’t require a formal laboratory setting or a hefty chunk of a business’s budget, it’s much more readily accessible. Today, you can install mouse-tracking software and begin monitoring visitors’ behavior immediately — and some research shows that mouse tracking is even nearly as accurately as formal eye-tracking studies do.

Eye Tracking vs. Mouse Tracking

The heat map on the left was produced from a formal eye-tracking study, while the one on the right was generated with mouse-tracking. According to ClickTale, experiments in which both techniques were administered simultaneously have shown there’s an 84–88% correlation between their results.

A final type of heat map is the Scroll Heat Map. In his very enlightening Slate post “You won’t finish this article” Farhad Manjoo revealed findings from a joint heat map analysis between Chartbeat and the online magazine. There is no surprise that very few people read all the way through.

Heatmap of Engaged Time (Courtesy of Slate)

Even though an impressive 86.2% of engagement took place below the fold, only 25% of people scrolled past pixel number 1600 (most Slate articles are around 2,000 pixels long). The take home message to tech entrepreneurs are that insights like these are what scroll maps are helpful for uncovering — particularly on longer pages.

In landing page terms, that’s most likely to be a sales page. These expertly drafted persuasive pieces of marketing collateral can grow to behemoth proportions, especially in the world of medical content online.

But how could the very top of a page be viewed less than the middle? Well, research from Chartbeat shows that many people tend to start scrolling before a page even loads, which means they’ll miss the very top, a term known as “Scroll Depth.”

Scroll Depth (Courtesy of Slate)

Two important takeaways that tech founders must internalize from scroll map tests are:

1. With a scroll map, you won’t know why people are scrolling as far as they are. You and your team will have to do some hypothesis testing to figure it out.

2. Sometimes you don’t necessarily need to know why people drop off where they do. The goal isn’t always to get people to scroll deeper

Heatmapping is not just restricted to the digital world, physical heatmapping i.e. assessing and optimizing foot traffic in retail stores exisits as well

Ultimately, the goal of heat map analysis is to discover real-life visitor(s) behavior and utilize that information to optimize the user experience for them. It is also important to remember that heat maps aren’t data; they simply organize data in an easily digestible way. They show clicks, scrolls, and hovers. What those mouse movements mean is up to you to determine.

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Dr. Mussaad M. Al-Razouki

Dr. Mussaad M. Al-Razouki

“The Way of the Future”

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