What is Heatmap Visualization? When & How to Use? 
What is Heatmap Visualization?
By definition, heatmap visualization or heatmap data visualization is a method of graphically representing numerical data where the value of each data point is indicated using colors. The most commonly used color scheme used in heatmap visualization is the warm-to-cool color scheme with the warm colors representing high-value data points and the cool colors representing low-value data points.
The reason that visualization of data through methods like heatmap has become so popular in the current age is that humans, in essence, are visual beings. There are many studies on human psychology and perception that suggest that we view and process visuals way more efficiently than written text or written data. In fact, according to the Social Science Research Network, 65% of human beings are visual learners, and that is why visualizing data of any form makes so much more sense.
In the world of online businesses, website heatmaps are used to visualize visitor behavior data so that business owners, marketers and UX designers can identify the best-performing sections of a webpage based on visitor interaction, and the sections that are performing sub-par and need optimization. In this blog, we will understand heatmap data visualization by taking website heatmaps as an example.
Types of Website Heatmap Data Visualization
Owing to its dynamic and robust nature, website heatmaps enable the graphical representation of data in many forms based on the nature of the data sets. Website heatmaps are used by businesses with an online presence to visualize the visitors’ clicks, scrolls, mouse and eye movement, and so on, on their website, in real-time. Visitor interaction on webpages is visualized in the form of heatmaps, scrollmaps, clickmaps, mouse tracking heatmaps, and eye-tracking heatmap. Let’s explore the kind of data each of these methods of heatmap visualization methods map and present:
Heatmap is a graphical way to visualize visitor behavior data in the form of hot and cold spots employing a warm-to-cool color scheme. The warm colors indicated sections with the most visitor interaction, red being the area of highest interaction, and the cool colors indicate sections with the lowest interaction.
Scrollmaps visually present the state of your webpages in the form of a heatmap where all the scroll data (scroll depth, scrolling pattern, etc.) are plotted. A scrollmap indicates how many visitors scrolled to each section of a webpage, the section after which the percentage of people scrolling drastically falls, the maximum depth till which people scrolled, and more. And all this is visualized using colors in a single scrollmap, with each color signifying varying intensity of interaction.
Going a little more on the granular level, website heatmaps offer clickmaps that track and visualize click data on the webpages. Clickmaps visually presents clicks on each element of a page like clicks on links, missing/broken links, images, CTA, pop-ups, and so on. Visualizing each and every click registered on the webpage, clickmaps present multiple variables and data points in one single heatmap.
Mouse Tracking Heatmap
While the first three forms of website heatmap visualization present data on explicit visitor behavior, the underlying and implicit behavioral patterns are tracked in the form of mouse movement. A color-coded heatmap is generated that visualizes mouse movement data of each individual visitor as well as data where the individual reports are combined to trace patterns in the mouse movement of the visitors.
At the most general level, mouse tracking heatmaps visualize where visitors’ cursor hovers the most, which section/s of a webpage the cursor keeps coming back to, and more such mouse movement data.
Like mouse tracking heatmap, eye-tracking heatmap also visualizes viewing patterns, but instead of cursor data, data on visitors’ gaze is visualized. Eye-tracking heatmap tracks visitors’ eye movement and visualizes gaze data in terms of fixation length based on how many times an image is looked at, which elements are attracting visitor gaze the most, which less important or less relevant elements are distracting the visitors’ gaze away from the main CTA, and so on.
Now, you may wonder why such a color-coded visualization of data is of importance to you.
The many forms of visualization options available presenting click, scroll, mouse, and eye movement data, website heatmaps help you uncover hidden behavioral insights. Such insights can then enable you to:
- Identify the best performing and most popular elements/section, the average performing and least popular elements/sections
- Find solutions through specific data points highlighted in the generated heatmap
- Identify the optimal page length
- Discover segment-wise behavioral patterns, identify user experience breakages, and more
These observations then help you re-ideate, recreate and modify website elements, optimize the experience across all digital properties, and ultimately increase conversions.
Overarching comparisons that would require days of data study and sorting can be readily made after one look at the generated heatmap. By offering a visual view of numerical data in a ready to consume manner, heatmaps make data analysis much faster and easier than it would be to analyze data stored in an excel with n number of rows and columns.
Website heatmap is only one kind of heatmap data visualization, and, as can be seen above, it can present behavioral data of as many visitors as you want in one single image or heatmap. Professionals from all industries alike can benefit from employing heatmap visualization, and with humans predominantly being visual beings heatmap data visualization is bound to hold a prominent position in the realm of data visualization.