Heat Maps and Web Optimization: Extrapolate, Investigate, Formulate.
As a digital strategist, data is imperative to the design, development, and optimization of any initiative. When it comes to data, it can be easy to ignore, misuse, or be overwhelmed with the amount of information that can be collected from your users. They key to making the most of any data assets, however, are to extrapolate your data, investigate it further by cross-referencing other data points and resources, and formulating your hypothesis to begin the design and development journey. Heat mapping tools are readily available, but often ignored, by many digital strategists when formulating assumptions about the user experience. Oftentimes, heat map data can facilitate the investigative process by directing them towards areas where immediate improvements can be made rather than allowing for one to get lost in a cycle of optimizations with minimal marginal benefit.
Heat maps are one of the simplest aggregators of data that are key to any website optimization initiative. There are many tools that work in this space including Hotjar,Clicktale and CrazyEgg. At a high level, these tools provide an aggregate of information about your user and their website journey including any hotspots, scroll maps and can break this down by different audience types that can include referral source, browsers and more. The key to this step is to select the metrics that matter most.
After extrapolating data with this very basic tool, you can begin to formulate assumptions that can be then verified by cross-referencing the heat map with other site metrics that can be found in Google Analytics. By appending hard numbers such as time on page, bounce rates, and event tracking you can begin to gain a better understanding of where your user is headed.
As a final step, it is important for you to bring that data back together and formulate a concrete hypothesis. For example, if you have a heat map that displays minimal scrolling, high bounce rates, and low time-on-page, you can safely assume that users are not finding what they thought they like on your site. Digging in further you could investigate information such as traffic source. Is it organic, paid, social? Each of these metrics can add a layer of information that could the course of your optimization strategy.
By starting out with a simple heat mapping tool, you can extrapolate information, investigate it further and formulate a strategy that will improve site metrics, site experience and will enable you to achieve more measurably impactful results.