What is a Heat Map and Why Does it Matter?
As you may or may not know, I do some website design. It is a side business from my major work with Lowenthal & Abrams, which is where I spend the majority of my time. Every time I design a new website (on which Beth Shupp-George does the major lifting) I learn something new. As a result, I am constantly slightly altering some of the websites where I have permission to do so.
Should the contact form be open or closed? Should the links be on the left side or the right side? What color is best? What wording works? Everything matters.
I find myself wondering though, how can I know what works, besides the actual results in terms of conversions and bounce rates? How can I tell what doesn’t work? How can I know? Guessing wrong can have serious (though temporary) ramifications.
Well, as it turns out, there is a way to find out quite quickly. It is called a heat map.
Where are People Looking?
You no doubt have seen the commercials for phones that stop movies when you turn your eyes away. I can see that technology being used for both positive and negative reasons. But one positive reason is that the same concept can be used to tell me where people are focusing their eyes on my websites. The technology has actually existed for a while in the sense that programs exist that can tell where people put their mouse pointers when they are on your site. How long do they rest the pointer at the top? Do they move from left to right or right to left?
This data can be collected using myriad software and then it can be analyzed to tell you where people are looking, pausing and clicking. In other words, where are the hot parts of your site. This is your heat map. Or in plain English, it is where people look, where they stay, and where they don’t. Obviously, in the case of computers that cannot actually sense gaze, the best data for something like this is where the mouse goes, since the mouse pointer tends to track our actions. I think this article, that offers “3 Hot Marketing Tips” gives a great sense of how to use a heat map in your website analysis, and what the author learned from heat maps.
How Can You Track This Stuff?
There are a number of programs you can use to add to your website to find out where people are looking (or pointing) and how long they spend time there. This analysis is incredibly valuable, since it helps you to understand where you might have problems on your site, and where you don’t.
I recently installed software called “SessionCam” on a website. I cannot provide a review yet, since I am new to using it, but I will report back in a month or so. There are a lot of other options out there. Run a search for heat map tracking or something along those lines. My research tells me that Crazy Egg is the grandaddy of this technology. Unfortunately, it also tells me that other companies have surpassed Cazy Egg in this technology, so it might not be the one to use. This reviewer is very positive on Crazy Egg though.
As I said, I cannot recommend one particular program right now. I will let you know what I think over time. But if you are curious how people are using your site, consider trying out one of these heat map programs and see what you think. This kind of data is incredibly valuable.