8 Heatmap Best Practices for Quickly Finding Poor User Experiences

Liam Burns
Written by Liam Burns
September 01, 2020

While it’s an intuitive and valuable tool at face value, there’s more to using heatmaps than simply skimming over its colorfully-mapped webpage data in hopes of finding the problems plaguing your site.

At the enterprise scale, you’ve likely got heatmaps collecting and visualizing millions of user behaviors and interactions on your site during any given month – a major reason that 95% of practitioners rate this tool as effective. But to turn that high volume of aggregate data into optimizations that make a difference on your website or app, it takes a truly savvy end-user.

So, before you dive into your heatmaps, here’s eight best practices you should follow to make the most of this tool at the enterprise level:

1. Organize heatmap investigations by page type, performance, device, and channel

No web optimization is a one size fits all solution. With so many variables impacting any given user journey, your optimizations must be organized and targeted.

By taking advantage of heatmap capabilities like segmentation, filtering, and certain integrations, you can organize user experience investigations by various factors like screen size, operating system, web browser, user history, and more. This allows you to categorize investigations, personalize fixes, and knock them out one by one.

Now you can make targeted fixes to mobile experiences without disrupting other user experiences, which has become critical now that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that uses personalization techniques.

2. Establish context using web analytics and voice of customer (VoC) data

You know there’s a problem on your site, but do you know why? Unfortunately, web analytics and VoC data only tell you the ‘what’ of issues that arise across your site, not ‘why’ they’re popping up. Luckily, you can fill these gaps with heatmaps.

Whether you’re seeing a spike in abandonment on email sign-up forms or a drop in Net Promoter Score (NPS) from repeat buyers, you can use this data to contextualize and spearhead heatmap investigations on related webpages. With various behavior data visualized by heatmaps, you’ll find the root cause behind low performing metrics for well-informed web optimizations.

Given that 42% of professionals feel their analytics systems don’t meet current needs, this combination between heatmaps and customer analytics combats plenty of UX knowledge gaps.

3. Determine best-performing and worst-performing content across pages

What’s catching users’ attention, and what’s causing them to close the window? Retire those maddening guessing games and use heatmaps for a definitive look at web content performance.

With heatmaps visualizing every user behavior like mouse clicks, hovering, scrolls, and more, you’ll easily identify your best and worst content for optimization. Finally, you can pin down rising conversion success to new product page videos, tie poor engagements to uninspiring product descriptions, and fine-tune content for better user experiences.

It’s clear if you fail to optimize your site’s content with tools like heatmaps then your key metrics are prone to dip, as nearly 40% of users will stop engaging altogether if they find your content misses the mark.

4. Measure engagements correlated with on-page elements and page designs

You’ve nailed your web content, but driving engagement remains a struggle – what do you do? Well, 75% of user judgement is based on your site’s overall aesthetics, meaning page design and layout stand as key ‘make or break’ factors.

Using heatmaps to visualize exactly how users behave and interact across webpages – from landing pages to product pages to checkout pages – you’ll be able to discover which on-page elements and designs generate friction, cause bottlenecks, and frustrate users.

You may discover there’s too much content below the fold causing fast abandonment or that call to action buttons are too subtle causing rising confusion: either way, using insights from heatmaps you’ll be able to optimize webpages for both aesthetics and functionality.

5. Gauge user frustration and confusion on underperforming pages

It only takes a few poorly optimized webpages to sink the user experience. With heatmaps leveraging behavior detection – rated effect by 96% of end-users – you can uncover those weak links as they arise.

Digital body language cues like multi-clicks, bird’s nests, device rotation, and others often tell more about poor user experiences than typical metrics like time on site or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). With heatmaps displaying these behaviors you can pin down hotspots for confusion and frustration, then optimize those struggling webpages.

Maybe you’ve got a homepage with concerningly high bounce rates or online forms with skyrocketing validation errors, behavior heatmaps will be your secret weapon for uncovering user friction.

6. Leverage session replay and segmentation to further examine heatmaps insights

Ironically, one of the best ways to make the most of heatmaps comes through other technology. Integrating session replay and segmentation with heatmaps, your user experience investigations won’t miss a thing.

Using heatmaps to generate insights at scale with millions of aggregate datapoints, you can use segmentation to filter down further by various UX factors and use session replay for a highly informative ‘over the shoulder’ view. With this perfect balance of broad and hyper targeted data, you’ll leave no poor experience untouched.

With session replay rated effective by 95% of practitioners and segmentation helps create websites that are 2 to 5 times more effective, you’ve now got a trio of analytic tools destined to take your digital optimizations to the next level.

7. Review form analytics to contextualize behavior on form-based pages

Online forms often act as the moment of truth for converting users. Given the high stakes nature of these conversion gateways, pairing heatmaps and form analytics has become essential.

With form analytics data acting as a warning system of sorts – flagging validation errors, time to completion, and abandonment rates – you can leverage heatmaps to dive into the weeds of poor performance issues. You may notice frustration spikes over various unresponsive textboxes or fewer users scrolling far enough to complete it, either way now you know where to optimize your form.

Given that forms are considered the most popular way to capture leads, form optimization is a prime use case for heatmaps.

8. Use tagging and overlay toggles to track and compare page changes

You’re ready to rollout fixes to your website or app, but manually tracking and comparing those changes can become overwhelming. With this in mind, it’s best to take advantage of tagging and data overlays from heatmaps.

By tagging on-page elements like buttons, media, or dropdown menus, you can easily keep track of how your webpage layouts change over time. Using overlay data and page toggling, you can streamline how you cross-compare page performance between older and newer webpage designs. These capabilities will simplify your A/B testing processes.

With a fine-tuned testing methodology, you can build the ultimate user experience which can drive conversion rates up to 400%.

Learn to Maximize Value from Session Replay like a True Industry Expert

From making critical integrations, to maximizing newer features, to focusing on the right data, now you’ve got a firm grasp on the best practices you need to take heatmap insights to the next level.

But even with these best practices under your belt, it still takes a thorough understanding of the pros, cons, and features of modern heatmap technology. To get the most out of heatmaps at the enterprise level, take advantage of The Definitive Guide to Website Heatmaps in 2020: Latest Enterprise Features.

This ultimate guide shares everything you need to know, including:

  • The basics of heatmaps
  • 6 strengths & 3 weaknesses of heatmaps
  • 7 must-have capabilities of modern heatmap solutions
  • Predictions for the future of heatmaps
Topics: Heatmaps, Product, User experience
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