Knowledge is power – the more knowledge you have, the more powerful you can be. This is also true when it comes to your website. The more you know about your visitors and how they interact with your site, the more successful your site can become as you tweak and improve your site based on the information you learn.
Using heatmaps to learn about your visitors
Heatmaps are graphical representations of the most popular areas of your webpages. If you imagine a thermal image, warmer areas are more prominent than the colder areas – the same is true for website heatmaps. On a website heatmap, the warmer areas are the most popular parts of your page.
Using heatmaps can give you unprecedented information about your site’s visitors. Whilst heatmaps work in a similar way to Google Analytics site overlay, they are far easier to understand due to their visual nature.
crazyegg.com – a case study
I came across the crazyegg website a couple of days ago – they provide heatmaps for your site on a free trial basis. Should you like the results, you can upgrade to a premium account based upon your traffic levels.
Screenshot of the crazyegg logo
You can run your test by number of days, or number of visits to that page. In the free version you are limited to 5,000 visitors per month over a maximum of 4 separate pages – enough for you to get an idea of whether this service is of use to you.
Using heatmaps for Just Chat
I decided to give crazyegg a trial run with Just Chat. I wanted to view heatmaps for the index pages of our main sections – namely our homepage, the message boards index, the epals section and our ecards service.
Unfortunately for some reason I could not get crazyegg to accept our message boards index as a page for analysis – this seems odd, as it is a standard phpBB forum. The other pages were a breeze to get going though.
The heatmap results
After 1,000 visitors here are the results for Just Chat:
Interpreting the results
The results show clear patterns of activity on each of the index pages – they show that for the main index page of Just Chat, the chat section is by far the most popular. We can also see the link visitors prefer to use – in this case, the graphical element.
Moving to the epals page, we can see that the login box is the most popular section, along with the ‘online now’ link. There is a lack of activity around the ‘Register’ links which needs to be addressed (although we must remember only 1,000 visits were used in this test).
Should I decide to increase advertising on this page, I can now clearly see where visitors eyes are focussed.
As for the ecards page, it is clear that people are clearly finding their way to the right areas of the site – people are picking up ecards and using the drop down box to search for ecards to send to friends and family.
Heatmaps are a useful tool to add to the arsenal required to get to know your site visitors. They offer an easy to interpret graphical overlay of your site so you can see just what users are actually doing when they get to your pages.
They can be invaluable in finding out if visitors are navigating your site as you would expect, and can also be used to optimise your advertising placements.
Have you considered using heatmaps to learn more about your visitors? Were the results what you expected? Leave your comments below!