Have you ever been to a website where you felt you had to scroll far down the page to get to the information you needed? This is a systemic problem in website design: how, outside of guesswork and personal preference, do you know where to put elements—content, photos, videos, testimonials, forms, and much more—on the webpage? Part of the answer to that question are heat maps, and, in this blog post, we’ll be discussing what they are, what they do, and what they tell us.
What are heat maps?
To come back to that first question, heat maps help inform our decisions about how to order, arrange, and prioritize the content on pages. By showing us where users are clicking and scrolling, they offer an easy way to gather data on user behaviors and preferences, in addition to other strategies such as call tracking.
Heat maps are generated by software that tracks what users do on a particular page of a website. Most heat maps track where people are clicking and how far down the page they scroll. Their name goes from the colors they use to indicate activity: red, orange, and yellow spots are places of high activity (“hot”), while green, purple, and blue spots indicate less activity (“cold”).
Heat maps tell us what content users are interested in—and what they’re skipping. We can also use heat maps to learn just how site visitors scroll down the page on any given website. Finally, heat maps can show us what site visitors are trying to click on. For example, if we find that site users are clicking on an image expecting to go somewhere, we might hyperlink that image to take them to a relevant page.
Take, for example, that bolded text in the paragraph above. If we were to run a heat map on this page for several weeks after this blog post was published, the heat map might tell us that our users were attempting to click the bolded text, mistaking it for a hyperlink. From there, our team could decide to change bolded text to make it distinguishable from hyperlinks, or turn that bolded text into a hyperlink to match the expectations or visitors. Perhaps we might avoid the issue altogether by un-bolding that text.
This distinction is important: heat maps can give us valuable insights into what users are doing with the page, but it can’t fully explain what they’re looking for, whether or not they found it, or what exact path we should take, as marketers, to make things easier for them. For that, you’ll need experienced marketers who can run tests and use heat maps in coordination with a host of other tools.