The Best Way to Visualize User Behaviors Online: Behavioral Heatmaps

Melissa Coito
Written by Melissa Coito
January 22, 2021

A person’s body language tells a lot about their mood, and it’s no different for a user’s digital body language online. Just like certain gestures or facial expressions indicate whether a person is cheerful or upset, there are certain user behaviors that reveal engagement or frustration online.

But with thousands of users navigating through your website or app every day, how can you collect and measure these specific behaviors at scale? Behavioral heatmaps.

Decibel’s behavioral heatmaps visualize which on-page elements and areas drive engagement, create confusion, or ignite frustration, allowing you to understand exactly how users behave on your website.

To uncover hidden insights and behavioral patterns that reveal a user’s true experience, Decibel’s heatmaps collect information well beyond hovers and clicks. They capture what happens between clicks like mouse position, scroll direction and speed, focus state, hesitation, device orientation, key presses, highlighted form elements, and much more.

What users experience – like load times, pop ups, or errors – and how they interact – from mouse velocity to clicks or scrolls – creates the perfect context for defining user behaviors. These behaviors help define the formula for good or bad user experiences and uncover opportunities to further refine websites and apps.

Now, with so many types of interactions taking place online, there are a few user behaviors that we frequently notice during moments of user frustration or engagement – and our heatmaps automatically alert you to them.


4 highly insightful behaviors tracked and measured by Decibel’s heatmaps

Decibel’s behavioral heatmaps capture four of the most critical behaviors – among many others – for on-page analysis and effective digital optimizations: multi-clicks, bird’s nests, select and copy, and mouse reading.

Each of these behaviors are reflective of your website or app, it takes a firm understanding of each one to understand the meaning behind them in various circumstances.

1. Multi-click behaviors

Multi-click behavior occurs when a user rapidly clicks or taps an on-page element. For avid online shoppers, this may be an all-too-familiar behavior. If a confirmation or purchasing button is slow or unresponsive, then clicking rapidly on it until all hope is lost will be a common reaction for many users.

In this case, automated detection of multi-clicks by behavioral heatmaps becomes incredibly useful for optimization teams as it quickly alerts you to experience issues leading to customer frustration and abandonment.

2. Bird’s nest behaviors

Bird’s nest behavior takes place when a user rapidly darts the cursor around, resulting in an erratic, jumbled trail.

As with multi-click behavior, being alerted to bird’s nest behaviors is incredibly useful for digital teams to identify where confusion is occurring on the page and causing frustration. This significantly cuts down the amount of time required to identify friction points in the user journey, and it helps pinpoint exactly where improvements can be made.

For example, one of Decibel’s ecommerce clients was alerted to a number of bird’s nest behaviors on the payment stage of their checkout process. It revealed users struggling with a lengthy, confusing form. After clicking submit, some users would be directed back to the start of the form with no clear indication as to why they couldn’t proceed to the final stage of the checkout, leading to a frustration and confusion driven bird’s nest.

Investigating the form allowed the digital team to design a new user-friendly form that simplified the form-completion process for streamlined checkout journeys leading to surges in conversions.

3. Select and copy behaviors

Select and copy behavior happens when a user highlights text from a website or app and copies it. This direct interaction with content can indicate a few things: a user could be researching a product by searching elsewhere, comparing it to a competitor’s products, or even simply sharing it with a friend.

This behavior offers an opportunity to engage the user in the moment and offer a discount code or another personalized message. Another common use of select and copy behavior relates to a visitor’s need to look up dictionary definitions of commonly misinterpreted or unknown vocabulary.

For example, the word “fortnight” when used in a sale promotion might be easily understood by British-English speakers but not commonly referenced by many American-English speakers. Observing select and copy behavior over such in-text language helps indicate that a different word choice would be ideal for a broader user understanding.

By tracking select and copy behavior, one of Decibel’s international clients surfaced an issue with the translation of the language on one of their pages. They were alerted to multiple sessions where users would copy vast swathes of text, lose their focus, and switch the tabs.

This trend suggested that users were copying the text to manually translate it on an external website, ultimately taking the reader away from the content and disrupting the user journey. But it was an easy fix with the help of Decibel’s behavioral heatmaps.

4. Mousing reading behaviors

Lastly, mouse reading behavior is detected when a user directly follows the content they are reading with their mouse.

This behavior is indicative of user engagement with online content whether it’s a how-to blog, research-laden article, or product description. It’s akin to a customer picking up and interacting with a product in-store – a clear sign of intent or interest.

Decibel’s clients use it to measure how their customers respond to different messaging and to identify the content that stands out to an online reader. It’s great for modifying and even personalizing the content offerings across your website.


Discover how LEGO uses Decibel’s behavioral heatmaps to optimize their ecommerce checkout

Initially looking at web analytics data, the digital team at LEGO was seeing a high bounce rate within their checkout flow but did not understand why it was happening. Using Decibel, the team discovered an issue on the main checkout page having a negative impact on visitors completing purchases.

Leveraging a behavioral heatmap, it quickly became clear that customers were engaging with credit card icons in an unexpected way. The team had included the icons as indicators of acceptable payment methods, but customers believed they had to select the method they were using. When they were unable to do so, they would multi-click in frustration and often abandon the cart.

Speaking to this process, Tim Murphy, Leader of Global eCommerce Shopper Experience at LEGO says: “Decibel was able to show us what we were actually seeing in our web analytics. We were finally able to identify a lot of the pain points that were happening in the checkout process which we never would have known about otherwise.”

Fixing this issue led to an immediate uplift in purchases and positively impacted company revenue.


Uncover every heatmap insight with the right tactics and capabilities

While behavioral heatmaps prove highly valuable to any web and app optimization team, it is just one of the various heatmap types that enable scalable page analysis. The best teams rely on a wide range of heatmap types with a sound understanding of the tactics and functionalities that maximize this tool at the enterprise level.

To turn heatmap insights into effective web optimizations that finally improve poor user experiences and drive more engagements and conversions, take advantage of The Definitive Guide to Website Heatmaps in 2020: Latest Enterprise Features.

Topics: Behavior, Digital Body Language, Heatmaps, User experience
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