Welcome to your go-to guide to website heatmaps: discover 2021’s latest functionality, how best to wield it, and learn what the future holds.
Whether you’re new to using heatmaps or looking for a refresher, here’s a crash course on the fundamentals of this digital experience analytics tool.
In short, heatmaps refer to visualizations of on-page user behavior on website and apps. There are a number of different kinds, including click heatmaps, hover heatmaps, and scroll reach heatmaps among others.
Aggregating millions of user behaviors and interactions into a single picture, heatmaps showcase how the bulk of user journeys unfold on your website or app. Our research with Econsultancy established that 95% of practitioners find heatmaps highly effective for measuring web and app experiences.
It’s no wonder heatmaps have become a staple in digital optimization programs, as 88% of professionals report that on-page journey mapping positively impacts their ability to deliver better, more personalized customer experiences (CX).
In a crowded field of analytics solutions, the heatmap’s claim to fame comes from its unique ability to enable large-scale analysis and spearhead in-depth user experience investigations into one single, unified, highly-visual view – a total gamechanger at the enterprise level.
From discovering which content creates high engagement, to navigation causing confusion, to technical issues sparking frustration, this tool reveals unparalleled aggregate view of how users interact with your website or app.
Research has shown that the mouse movements of desktop users correlate highly with where they are paying attention. Clicks, meanwhile, mark the point where that attention becomes genuine interest or desire. Hover heatmaps thus indicate the on-page content that draws user attention, while click heatmaps indicate the content that piques their interest.
These highly actionable insights are like gold to any enterprise digital team. Don’t believe it?
Well, the team at Tesco Mobile used a mixture of click, hover, and scroll reach heatmaps to investigate drop off in their checkout funnel. The changes they made based on these insights led to a 70% increase in conversion.
There’s no perfect answer here, as rresponsibilities can differ greatly between organizations. But to make it simple, whoever’s in charge of identifying user experience issues across your website or app will undoubtedly want and need access to heatmaps.
However, limiting these insights to a single person or department would be shortsighted. In fact, 80% of companies say their digital transformation efforts involve multiple business units or the entire company.
Behavioral data collected by heatmaps stands to benefit a wide variety of teams dedicated to improving online customers experiences, including: digital marketers, web analysts, customer success managers, digital optimizers, UX designers, and ecommerce specialists.
Learning where on webpages users engage or grow frustrated can help marketers fine-tune landing pages, UX teams improve webpage designs, while customer success teams can address support tickets faster.
With multiple teams taking advantage of heatmaps, your entire organization can become truly customer experience driven and fully optimize those digital experiences.
As you’ve probably already picked up on, there’s loads to love about heatmaps. And like any other data-driven tool, this one has its strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s take a look at exactly what makes heatmaps so useful for investigating user experiences at the enterprise level by detailing its six biggest strengths.
When you’ve got millions of users visiting your site every month, digging into the data can feel overwhelming. Luckily, heatmaps offer a practical starting point.
With every single user behavior measured and mapped automatically, you can gauge how users interact with your website or app, discover patterns within every user journey, and note areas worth investigating further for optimization.
These insights bring detail and context to other resources like web analytics, voice of customer (VoC) data, and more. Whether you’re concerned with landing page form errors or homepage abandonments, heatmaps provide an incredibly useful visual starting point for your investigations.
What’s working on your site and what isn’t? Heatmaps will actually show you by tracking and displaying digital body language data for any webpage you want to analyze.
With a diverse range of heatmaps measuring every type of user behavior, you can determine exactly which copy elements or media draw attention, which webpage designs and navigation menus cause engagement or confusion, and which user journeys show patterns of frustration. This provides a clear window into the user state of mind.
Given that nearly 40% of users will stop engaging with web content or layouts that miss the mark, it’s a major time saver to have heatmaps automatically highlighting those poor experiences for pinpoint optimization.
Creating the perfect webpage doesn’t happen by accident. It often takes consistent testing to fully optimize a webpage, but research shows only 55% of companies conduct UX testing, inevitably leading to missed optimization opportunities.
While testing several renditions of the same webpage can feel overwhelming – whether a homepage, product page, or landing page – heatmaps streamline this process. With the ability to track changes to page elements and designs along with access to webpage overlays, heatmaps allow you to visualize performance differences between pages and simplify those testing comparisons.
To really understand the quality of user experiences, you‘ll need more granular insights. To narrow down your analysis, you can take advantage of the 5 different heatmap types: scroll, attention, dot/click, attribution, and behavior.
Depending on your investigation’s focus, you can use scroll maps to gauge content consumption, attention maps to learn content piquing user interest, dot/click maps to discover engagement activity, attribution maps to measure interactions affecting web data, and behavior maps to detect areas causing frustration or confusion.
With an arsenal of various heatmaps at your side, you can truly dig into any aspect of the user journey and deliver superior user experiences, which can drive conversions up by 400%.
Ironically, one of the best ways to generate more actionable insights from heatmaps comes from session replay – its ‘sister tool’ if you will.
Deemed highly effective by 95% of end-users, session replay complements heatmaps as well as any other digital tool out there. By using heatmaps to create an aggregate view of user behaviors and experiences, a session replay integration actually allows you to watch back specific user sessions directly linked to heatmap data of your choosing.
Let’s say your hover and click heatmaps show you limited interest and fewer engagements with video content, you can dive into that specific issue with session replay to finally discover that video content fails to load properly.
These tools combined bring an unstoppable 1-2 analytic punch to your investigations.
Not all user journeys look the same. Different devices, screen sizes, web browsers, marketing channels, and more all affect the user experience – and heatmaps highlight how they may differ.
With journey discovery and segmentation data offered by modern heatmap vendors, you can split up heatmap analysis by different journeys to truly personalize and optimize those varying experiences. Now you can correlate rising abandonment to poor mobile experiences, or high checkout frustration with a certain device operating system, and optimize those experiences with precision.
The ability to deliver seamless omni-channel experiences has become essential now that 70% of customers say seamless and connected experiences are key to winning their business.
Even with all the versatile ways heatmaps generate nuanced insights at scale, there are still a few drawbacks to this tool you and your team should be mindful of during UX investigations.
Before using heatmaps on your own website or app, review these three weaknesses to avoid any potential end-user issues.
You and your team likely have a wide-ranging to-do list to work through, so time is a precious resource. Unfortunately, heatmaps can prove inefficient if approached the wrong way.
With the ability to review various heatmap types on any given webpage across your site or app, this can quickly become a time-draining resource. It’s best not to randomly review every heatmap available to you, but rather dive into known issues with this tool to streamline your UX investigations.
For instance, you may notice declining form completion rates indicated by your form analytics. In this case, you can leverage heatmaps to investigate how users are interacting and behaving on your forms to pinpoint potential issues.
Attention to detail matters, especially when it comes to delivering the perfect user experience. If you’re looking to pick up on hyper-granular user data, heatmaps aren’t sufficient on their own.
With millions of sessions worth of user behaviors collected heatmaps simplify large-scale analysis. However, this benefit prevents heatmap-driven investigations from getting too in-depth on their own, which means you’ll need to rely on additional tools to dig deeper.
With heatmaps showing you broad user behaviors and patterns, you can supplement it with more granular solutions like session replay or even AI-powered metrics like Decibel’s Digital Experience Score (DXS) which quantifies and scores every user experience instantly.
Innovation acts as a double-edged sword. As certain vendors transform and improve industry standard tools, lagging versions become overpriced with inferior insights – and heatmaps are not immune.
With new developments in behavior detection, segmentation, automated capabilities, integrations, and more, you won’t see the best return on investment (ROI) if you’re relying on outdated or even standard heatmap solutions.
To really get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to prioritize modern heatmaps with time-saving features and AI-powered insights to streamline your UX investigations. In fact, AI-based technologies like these could boost labor productivity by up to 40%.
In the market for a heatmap solution? Well, buyer beware! While many heatmaps vendors offer similar baseline data, not all vendors offer the advanced features that generate the nuanced and scalable insights you need at the enterprise level.
Before shopping around, look over these must-have capabilities you’ll want access to regularly to enhance UX investigations.
The more insight into user behavior, the better, right? That’s why having access to every heatmap filter matters.
User behaviors are often subtle, so one or two heatmap types can’t catch everything you need to optimize your site effectively. To truly understand how users interact with any give webpage, you’ll want a wide range of heatmaps to choose from, including: scroll maps, attention maps, dot/click maps, attribution maps, and behavior maps.
If you settle for solutions with limited heatmap selections your web optimizations may be imprecise or even counterproductive.
Testing and comparing similar webpages – like a series of landing pages or product pages – can be tedious. You often need to switch back and forth or compare them side-by-side to glean insights, which is less than ideal. But this is where overlay data can save you time.
With overlay capabilities you can place alike webpage data right over each other to analyze performance differences with ease. Say you have hundreds of products on your ecommerce store that all follow the same template. Instead of loading individual heatmaps for each page, modern heatmap solutions allow you to group those pages and analyze them all in one go.
This simplifies how you compare the results between your most popular and unpopular product pages, or best performing and worst performing landing pages.
Click data simply isn’t enough to gauge user experience quality. Users do way more than just click – they scroll, hover, shake their cursor, and more, meaning you need heatmaps that reveal those behaviors too.
With behavior detection technology – rated effective by 96% of end users – embedded in modern heatmaps, you can visualize and analyze this data in bulk. These behavioral insights are critical for pinpointing areas of frustration, engagement, and confusion across your site.
With this intelligence in place, you can get a clear sense the user state of mind on any given webpage.
Although heatmaps gather highly insightful data, no tool offers a complete picture on its own, so integrations have become essential.
To make your data more actionable for optimizations, you should prioritize heatmap solutions that provide a diverse range of analytic integrations. 42% of professionals claim their analytics aren’t up to par, so integrating those systems with heatmaps allows you to contextualize data for a more nuanced understanding of user experiences and how to optimize them.
No more infuriating guessing games, this feature lets you better understand interactions leading to a low Net Promoter Score (NPS), high abandonment rate, or pretty much any other metric of your choosing.
Don’t manually tag and track changes yourself, let heatmaps do it for you.
Whether you’re adding a new button, rearranging page layouts, adding a dropdown menu, or anything else, automatic tracking makes this a breeze. With both static or dynamic elements, modern heatmap vendors offer features that will automatically keep track of those changes to make testing optimizations easy to manage.
Features like automated tracking and tagging have become high priority now that 80% of business and tech leaders believe AI like this boosts productivity.
Looking to test out new and improved page designs? Page toggling can completely streamline your A/B testing processes.
Whether you’re changing copy, visual layouts and on-page elements, or interface functionality, page toggling allows you to switch between your original design and new design to understand exactly how users interact differently with either version.
Given that 45% of companies don’t perform any UX testing, this provides an opportunity to take your digital experiences to the next level compared to competitors.
Heatmaps and session replays are an iconic duo in the web optimization community. But to take this analytical match to the next level, you’ll want to integrate them.
With modern heatmap and session replay vendors like Decibel providing integrations between these tools, your team can pinpoint specific areas of heatmaps for investigation – like a frustration hotspot – and instantly watch the session replays directly related to find the friction frustrating those users.
No more time spent trying to matchup session replay with heatmap data. This combination brings a perfect balance of large-scale analysis with highly granular insights, which enables web optimizations that actually move the needle on user experience quality.
Even with the best heatmap solution on the market, it’s nearly impossible to maximize this tool’s value without knowing the ins and outs as a user. To make your investment in heatmaps worthwhile, you’ll need to master a few key best practices.
If you follow the simple and repeatable 8-step process we’ve laid out, you’ll be turning heatmap insights into web optimizations in seemingly no time at all.
Between desktop and mobile, different browsers or operating systems, and varying lead channels, and more, the user experience will vary. So, if each user experience differs based on those factors, then so should your web optimizations, right?
To make truly successful improvements to your website or app it takes hyper-targeted optimizations. With heatmaps, you can take advantage of segmentation and filters to narrow down your investigations by specific user journeys and find points of friction only surfacing within those segments – then optimize with precision.
For example, if mobile users run into navigation menu glitches, you can easily distinguish those from desktop user journeys and resolve the issue without disrupting those other experiences.
Getting bogged down by a single analytics system or digital tool is an easy mistake. Instead, use all your data to your advantage to better contextualize UX issues.
With web analytics and VoC resources, you can find surface-level problems – whether it’s unusually low conversion rates or concerning Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) – and turn to heatmaps to investigate further.
From here, you can dive into heatmap data on related webpages to discover trends in user behaviors and interactions revealing issues directly hurting those metrics. Finally, no more maddening guessing games.
Nearly 40% of users will stop engaging if they find your content misses the mark, so how do you know what separates the best web content from the worst?
Traditionally, you’d use engagement data and time on site stats to try and decipher which content performs best, but this is far from a perfect process. With heatmaps visualizing every mouse click, scroll, and movement, you get a definitive understanding of content piquing their interest and keeping them truly engaged.
With this nuanced understanding of user engagement, you can nail down areas of webpages like promo descriptions, demo videos, product images, or more to determine which type of content you should keep and what you should revamp.
Looks matter, especially when it comes to your website or app. In fact, user judgments of a website’s credibility are 75% based on the site’s overall aesthetics.
How you can meet those beauty standards? By fine-tuning your web design layout and on-page elements. With heatmaps near–perfectly illustrating how users view, behave, and interact with webpages, you can learn exactly which on-page elements or designs spark higher engagement versus those that contribute to high abandonment.
Now that you’ve got a clear understanding of your site’s best layouts, you can mold product pages for higher conversions, simplify checkout pages for frustration-free shopping, and perfect your homepage with an eye-popping design.
If users start dropping off like flies across your website, it’s time to dig into those webpages sabotaging the user journey.
Arguably the biggest telltale sign of a truly poor performing webpage stems from user behaviors showcasing frustration and confusion. Reviewing heatmaps, you can discover which behaviors repeatedly pop up the most across low performing webpages, like an impatient series of multi-clicks or rage-driven bird’s nests.
Finding these spikes and hotspots of user frustration allow you to spot bottleneck issues – whether it’s a broken button, messy navigation sequence, or lagging videos – and optimize them accordingly.
As we alluded to earlier, heatmaps give you the most bang for your buck when you combine them with other tools. But which ones work best? Look no further than session replay and segmentation.
With these tools in place, start by narrowing in your search with a wide range segmentation filters to focus on specific user segments encountering UX issues. Then spot those large-scale behavioral trends across webpages within those segments using visual data from heatmaps. Finally, instantly play back related session replays that show you exactly what’s derailing those user journeys.
Integrating session replay and segmentation technology with heatmaps turns these tools into a 3-headed analytic monster built to find virtually any poor user experience.
All forms are the same, right? Not exactly. The success of these conversion gateways often hinges on design and functionality, meaning heatmaps are an ideal tool for optimizing these critical pages.
Using form analytics data acting as a warning system of sorts – from completion rate to validation errors – you’ll be able to launch deeper investigations with heatmaps anytime red flags with these metrics arise.
Taking advantage of on-page visual data from heatmaps, you can spot behaviors and actions indicating issues with the form interfac , like high frustration correlating with validation errors or low scroll reach suggesting poor placement of content below ‘the fold.’
Consider this your secret weapon for building the perfect high-converting form.
Tracking and comparing webpage optimizations can feel like a logistical nightmare. Luckily for you, heatmaps simplify this process.
Whether you’re completely redesigning your product page layouts or making some minor content tweaks to your homepage, you can use toggling and overlay data to seamlessly cross-compare the new versions with the old.
This makes evaluating your digital optimization results a clean and definitive process with ability to contrast how users behave and act differently across different webpage reiterations. It’s an ideal testing tool for designing the perfect website.
Whew! You’re well on your way to becoming an expert in all matters relating to heatmaps. Although, even with a clear grasp on the fundamentals and nuances of heatmaps, it’s wise to be on the lookout for innovations that may change how you use heatmaps in the future.
Take a look below at what we could see unfold with heatmaps beyond 2021 so you’re prepared to make the most of potential future functionality.
While heatmaps already work wonders for digital optimization teams, this tool is poised to become even more extensive and prominent in data-driven teams.
For starters, we’re already seeing new applications for heatmap technology roll out and mature. Marketers will rejoice to hear (if they haven’t already) that email heatmaps and advertising heatmaps have emerged, allowing for optimization opportunities within their demand generation campaigns.
While those are undoubtedly promising use cases, what about new advancements for digital optimizers, web analysts, and UX teams looking to perfect user experiences?
Ask and you shall receive! Here’s what we could see in the world of heatmaps as they relate to optimizing website and app experiences:
1. Faster and streamlined visual data processing to generate near-instant heatmap visualizations and analytic reports – even for millions of sessions at a time.
2. More accurate behavior detection capabilities enabling a better understanding of user behaviors and more precise digital optimizations.
3. Predictive and real-time heatmap analytics facilitating timelier and better anticipated website or app optimizations.
While some of these may develop and roll out sooner than others, these are just a few advancements that could realistically become a part of the heatmap landscape in the coming months and years.
But until then, you can put all your new heatmaps expertise to proper use and investigate user experience issues like a pro. Finally, it’s time for you and your team to make web optimizations that truly move the needle on engagements, conversions, and loyalty.
To learn how you can get even more out of heatmaps along with other digital tools, request a demo with a Decibel digital experience expert!