Heatmap Analysis

Heatmap analysis involves analyzing heat maps generated from a recording tool such as mouse tracker, eye tracker or even cameras (in case of traffic or footfall capture). Heatmap is a graphical representation of the user’s mouse or eye movement when using a product or service. Heat maps are helpful indicators of what grabs a user’s attention, where the users are spending their time and how much time is being spent on which areas. Additionally, heat maps can help determine which aspects of digital or non-digital products need to be improved.

Quick details: Heatmap Analysis

Structure: Structured

Preparation: Heatmaps

Deliverables: Analysis, Dashboards, Insights

More about Heatmaps

The data collected is represented using different colors where warmer colors indicate where the users spent most time and cooler colors indicate a reduced level of attention or interest for the users. 

Heat maps can be used to test different prototypes and models in terms of how engaging they are for the users, whether they are addressing the needs of the users and whether the user is taking intended actions intuitively. Similarly, heat maps can help determining the optimum layout and user experience of websites. Various elements that make up a good user experience can be gauged for optimization. The aspects to analyze include navigation, user goals achieved with fewer number of clicks, page layout, the kind of images used, the color combinations employed, the shape and size of buttons, the terminologies used to state the functionality of the buttons, the length and language used for content. If coupled with other methods such as usage analytics and usability testing, heat maps can give comprehensive and valuable insights to optimize the models under inquiry. 

Heat maps are not necessarily restricted to mouse tracking, there are devices that can track eye movement and represent that data graphically in the form of heat maps. Heatmaps are also generated using cameras and additional plugin tools when we want to analyze traffic patterns or footfalls.


Types of Heatmaps: Scroll Heatmaps and Confetti Heatmaps

Heat Maps can be segregated into different types such as scroll and confetti, making the map easy to interpret. 

Scroll maps represent data in the form of a spectrum of colors showing how far to the bottom of a page do users navigate whereas confetti heat maps give an indication of mouse clicks represented as spots of different colors. 

Depending on the kind of data that needs to be gathers to improve on user experience; one, the other or both can be employed. For example, if the submit button located at the foot of a long form doesn’t get clicked, then how far the user scrolls down on the form can be figured using a scroll type heat map whereas when there are multiple buttons on the page and we need to find out which button is optimally placed, is made of the appropriate colors, the terminologies used accurately capture the function buttons will perform on click.

Mouse TrackingTo track and record mouse movement of users.
  • Relatively less expensive.
  • Can be mapped for a large sample size.
  • Can be mapped for the exact sample group under inquiry.
  • Too many diverse interpretations.
  • Gives an indication of the items that users click on. This would indicate what the users find interesting but not what grabs their attention but they don’t end up clicking on for whatever reasons.
Eye trackingTo track and record eye movement of users.
  • Gives a great insight into the objects that grab the users attention first.
  • Results are 100% accurate for the sample group.
  • The equipment required for mapping as well as the mapping exercise is expensive.
  • When using an eye-tracking heat map, the sample group or potential users cannot be separated from the normal visitors, so it may generate inaccurate results.

Advantages of Heat maps in User research

1. Rich Insights

Heat map analysis gives quite rich insights in terms of usability, if used correctly can determine not only user behavior but also why they behave the way they do.

2. Optimization direction

Heat map analysis can help figure the user experience of prototypes or models and indicate the possible design directions that the designs must take.

3. Easy to interpret

Heat maps are easy to interpret so it can be easily read and fairly understood by most people.


Disadvantages of Heat maps in User research

1. Incorrect use of heat maps

Depending on whether an eye tracking or mouse tracking device is used or whether a scroll or confetti type heat map is used to represent the data gathered, the findings that a researcher can draw from the heat maps will vary.

2. Use of additional methods

Standalone heat maps as not as effective as using it in conjunction with usage analytics and testing methodologies.

3. Data interpretation

For a researcher who doesn’t have any background knowledge in analytics, heat map data analysis may not be as in-depth as required.

Think Design's recommendation

Use Heat Map analysis to indicate a trend, especially something that has characters of density and movement. In other circumstances, Heat maps may not make much sense. Some examples where heat maps may be used to get insights:

  • Number of users over time (density: number of users, movement: time)
  • Users’ mouse movement on a website/ portal (density: number of recorder cursors, movement: mouse position, time)
  • Pedestrian movement pattern (density: number of pedestrians, movement: time, footprints)
  • Medicine purchase pattern (density: number of units sold, movement: time trend)
  • Goal accomplishment over time (density: transaction completed, added to cart, movement: time)
  • Support call volume by geography (density: number of support calls, movement: geographic location)
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