How to create a heat map - best practices and mistakes to avoid

Kasia KowalskaApril 29, 20218 min

Do you know how to create a heat map? If you run a website, there are many reasons why you should! If used properly, they can help you improve your UX, which will make navigating around your site easier for users.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at how to make a heat map, what the best practices for heat map creators are, and which mistakes you should avoid to ensure clarity and relevance.

Improve your website

1. Establish which pages you need to set up your heat map on

Although it might be tempting to simply create heat maps for each page, we recommend heat map creators to focus first on those that are crucial for their organization. These include your homepage (which is often the first page that users visit) as well as other pages that are of high importance for your business, such as pricing. If you have an eCommerce store or campaign pages for promotions or giveaways, it’s also worth setting up a heatmap on them, as they need to be user-friendly and easy to navigate.

Another place worth considering are newly launched pages. They require special attention – any design elements that need refining should be identified either before or shortly after publishing. If the page features call-to-action (CTA) elements, they also need to be tested to determine if they are placed correctly and can generate interaction.

Heat maps can also be used to target pages with high bounce rates and those that have low click-through rates (CTR). Pages that do not yield their expected conversions need extra attention, and using your Google Analytics dashboard should enable you to identify which pages are not performing well.

Google Analytics - LiveSession website

Last, but not least, remember to also review conversion paths, i.e., user journeys that show how your users navigate your website from first entry up to placing an order or taking another desired action. You need to use your heat map data to optimize these processes and ensure that these visitor paths are error-free and seamless.

2. Decide which information you need to verify

Before you launch your heat map, it’s worth agreeing on the problems or issues you’re aiming to tackle. If you, for instance, have a big drop-off rate for one or more of your product pages, making a heat map will enable you to identify where users end their journey. You can then further investigate the issue by using other tools such as session recordings or surveys – we will talk about them later in this article.

3. Use various types of heat maps (or establish which one you need the most)

Once you determine which areas of your website call for improvement, such as in the above-mentioned example of product pages, you might uncover that you’d benefit from more than one heat map type. For a comprehensive overview, you can refer to our dedicated piece which reviews all the heatmap options you can choose from.

For instance, using a scroll map and a click map together will help you to determine how far down a page users scroll and which areas generate clicks and interest.

Ultimately, before deciding on the heat map type, aim to establish which heat map data you need the most to resolve any usability problems and improve on-site conversion.

4. Use jointly with session recordings and eye-tracking software

Enhancing your website’s user experience with heat map data, which can illuminate all on-site interactions, can give you the edge you need to cultivate exceptional experiences. However, bear in mind that heat maps let you see the bulk of user activity on each site and you might need other tools to dive deep into each user’s on-site actions. Here’s where session recording solutions come into play, giving you the option to watch a video of how each user moves and interacts with your website. To make the most of your heat map analysis, we recommend using a solution like LiveSession, which lets you use both heatmaps and session recordings.

Heatmap and session recording

Also, if you’d like to understand which parts of your website are most and least looked at, consider using eye-tracking software to create hover maps. As it requires a wearable equipment, however, it is most commonly used in a lab environment as part of usability testing sessions. We discuss them in the next point.

5. Verify your findings with other tools before drawing any conclusions

Once you’ve made your heat maps, it is important not to treat the data you gathered as final. Cross-check your findings with tools such as Google Analytics and, where possible, run website surveys to gather more information.

Additionally, you can take advantage of user testing labs where participants are asked to complete a specific task. Depending on your preference, you can either sit back and quietly observe them or ask testers to comment on each step they take. Note: consider conducting anonymized user sessions, as some respondents might not be comfortable providing feedback openly.

Now that you know how to create a heat map, let’s take a look at the mistakes that you need to avoid.

Mistakes to avoid when you generate a heat map

1. Don’t draw conclusions too early

When making heat maps, it can be tempting to gather data as fast as possible so you can go straight to implementing solutions. However, it is important that you do not rush the process. Not only do you require enough website visitors to get credible insights but you also need to set realistic deadlines for data gathering – right from the very start. This will ensure you get the answers you need without the risk of jumping to wrong conclusions.

2. Not supporting your heat map findings with user feedback

As mentioned earlier, not only does heat map data give you a bird’s eye view of all user actions. More often than not, they are also anonymous, which means you don’t have the option to collect qualitative user feedback. Namely, you can’t reach out to specific users and ask them for a more detailed explanation of their actions.

You can tackle this potential obstacle with user testing sessions, which you can use to ask testers about your website content and understand which areas you must further focus on. You can do so by either talking to testers directly or asking them to finalize the session with a survey where they provide feedback.

Last, but not least, if you decide to organize user testing sessions, remember to account for any visual impairment or website responsiveness issues – these are the usability areas which heat map analysis might not clearly point you to.

3. Forgetting to block your IPs

When generating heat map data, you need to ensure that the data you gather is from website users who are not your employees. Not blocking IPs will mean you could be gathering data from your own company, which is far from ideal – especially when testing newly launched pages that are often viewed by in-house testing teams or other colleagues.

how to make a heat map and make sure your data is relevant – blocking internal traffic

Source: Unsplash

So, always double-check if internal traffic is not included in your analysis to ensure that your data is credible.

4. Lack of user context

No two web users are alike, which is why you need to consider your various customer personas with their own challenges, goals, pain points, and on-site behavior. Some customers, for instance, are interacting with your website for the first time, while others are returning visitors.

Consider splitting up your testing to reflect these different experiences. We recommend analyzing how new customers interact with your website, product, and services pages separately from those who already know it well and are more comfortable with the given information.

However, if both your new user and established customer groups are struggling to finalize certain processes, product or interface familiarity won’t be to blame. There is the likelihood of a wider issue with the UX, which needs to be addressed promptly.

5. Treating the number of spotted actions as an indicator of success

Not all repeat actions indicate success. Consider, for instance, “rage clicks”, which are error clicks that users perform when clicking on content repeatedly as they are unable to move successfully further down their user journey.

generate heat map to make sure you spot bugs and errors

Sometimes, users also navigate back to a webpage on more than one occasion or click on elements such as CTA buttons several times. It doesn’t necessarily mean interest in certain content. Especially, if your conversion rate numbers simply don’t add up to the number of interactions.

If that’s something you notice in your data, you should make sure the buttons are working properly before making any design changes.

How to create a heat map – final thoughts

Generating heat maps can provide an exceptional source of data to enhance your digital presence. Always retain your focus on the data you require, augment your findings with additional tools and user testing, and be clear on what your picture of success looks like for user engagement. It could be the game-changer you need to boost your business and gain customers!

If you’re searching for a tool that offers both heat maps and session recordings, then look no further and check out LiveSession – we offer a free trial.

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