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Using Click Heatmaps to Understand Your Viewers
While there are some quick & easy solutions for making our websites more usable, not everything can be made clear through standard analytics programs overnight. One way to accurately visualize how our visitors use our sites is through the use of Click Heatmaps.
What’s a “Click Heatmap”?
A click heatmap is a visual piece of data that shows where viewers are clicking on your website — and as the title suggests, shows more ‘heat’ in areas that are clicked more.
They’re useful for many reasons, some of which include:
- Knowing exactly how a viewers uses a specific page.
- Seeing which parts of a page are unused.
- Seeing parts of a page that are most used.
- Understanding patterns of use on your site as a whole.
- Predicting how visitors will use your site in the future.
- Using that insight to better cater to your viewers.
Where can I get a Click Heatmap?
There are several services out there that provide wonderful heatmap applications (my personal favorite would have to be CrazyEgg, which delivers lots of useful features in a beautiful package) but ClickHeat is the one I find myself using most often… and it’s free.
ClickHeat is installed on your own server, and can be used on unlimited pages, and track unlimited data (provided your server will allow it — it can hog resources, so be careful). The installation is very simple, and should start gathering accurate data in no time at all.
You should let ClickHeat run for a good amount of time before analyzing the data. You could adjust your site based on how 50 people use it, but wouldn’t it make more sense to see how 1,000 viewers used it? 10,000?
Once you have a nice sized data group, spend time observing how your viewers are using your site. I like to actually print out my heatmaps, and make notes on paper to have something in front of me when making adjustments on my site.
Keep these in mind as you analyze:
- Areas that see very few clicks can probably be removed. If your viewers don’t find it to be important, it could be more of a distraction and hindrance to them. Consider removing such elements, or even replacing them to see if different use of that area may lead to more interest in your sites content.
- Look for Clicks that don’t lead anywhere. If you notice patterns in users clicking in areas that are not links, you may be confusing them, and once again slowing them down. Consider making those areas links, or removing them altogether.
- Observe areas that get LOTS of attention. These are the parts of your site where you should be spending most of your time on (In terms of polishing and content development).
- Observe areas just after content to see if your viewers are led anywhere else. If you don’t see any clicks after your content, it could mean that your viewers have hit a dead end, and have no where else to go. Try to turn your endings into new beginnings.
- Compare clicks above the fold to after the fold. The results may be shocking to you.
With some good notes jotted down, you probably can already see a few things that might need improvement. There is no sure way to fix problems on any given site, but there are a few good rules to keep in mind during the design process:
- Usability is a lot about direction. You want to give your viewers a direction — guide them to where you want them to go. Too many choices, and you’ll confuse them. Not enough emphasis on the right choices, and they might get mislead.
- You’re job as the designer is to maximize interest in the site, while at the same time maintaining usability. Try to balance the aesthetics with the function. Areas that deserve more attention might deserve some highlighting in the design.
- Your users probably think above the fold. You should too. Move elements in your design that you want your viewers to notice to a location that will be immediately visible to them.
Adjust as Needed, and Test Again
Your website will never be perfect. If I’m wrong and your website is perfect, there is nothing I can show you that you don’t already know, so you might as well leave. Remember that just because you make changes to your site doesn’t mean you’ve solved all your problems. Chances are, you’ve solved some usability issues, while creating new ones.
Retest your site after making any improvements. Check to see if your adjustments improved the user experience, and also check to see if those improvements are reflected in your statistics programs (Such as Google Analytics).
We may not be able to make the perfect website, but we can at least always strive to make our websites better.