All Posts By

Joseph La Ponza

What You Need to Know About Heat Maps & Scroll Maps

By Website Development


Optimize is one of the most frequently used words in web design and online marketing. It literally puts the “O” in SEO.

Some optimization tactics are basic — make sure all of your links work, include a Call to Action, etc. Professional ‘optimizers,’ however, need to go deeper than these surface-level improvements. And to do that, we need data.

Developers often use information from Google Analytics to optimize their websites for conversions.

This information is helpful, but it includes gaps.

Google Analytics can report on how long people stay on a page, where they came from, and where they went, but more precise and granular data — like where users stop looking at a page before they leave it — is not available.

Not through Google Analytics, anyway.

Enter the heat map.

What You Need to Know About Heat Maps & Scroll Maps

What’s a Heat Map?

Heat maps, which are available through tracking programs like CrazyEgg, show where users are and are not clicking on a given website page. The map is formatted intuitively, showing warmer colors like orange and red on page areas that get the most clicks and cooler hues like blues and purples on places that aren’t getting as much attention.

According to Webmaster, heat maps typically track eye movement by attaching complicated machinery to someone’s head to see where their eyes land on the page.

Since heat map providers can’t wire up every visitor to your website, they track clicks instead. This isn’t such a bad thing — a Carnegie Mellon study found an 88% correlation between where people’s eyes go and where they click on a web page.

Heat maps are extremely helpful for judging the performance of your content and Calls to Action. Once the heat map is installed, you’ll be able to decide which CTAs to keep and which ones to change or remove based on user data, which can lead to a higher conversion rate.

Website heat maps provide the power of a premium eye-tracking software at a much more reasonable price than more sophisticated usability testing.

What is a Scroll Map?

Scroll maps show which areas on a website visitors leave from. This information allows you to remove or reconfigure these elements so that more people convert on your offer.

Typically, one specific area or a select few are causing people to leave. With the scroll map, you can identify these areas quickly through the same intuitive color scheme as the heat map. This tool lets developers and online marketers monitor activity on your website and make improvements for more conversions.

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Lessons From Heat & Scroll Map Tracking

Heat maps, scroll maps and other tracking software make it much easier to see the actions that users take on your website. Your online marketing provider can use these programs to improve your specific campaign, but are there any overarching lessons that tracking can tell us?

HubSpot found a few lessons after studying a number of heat maps and scroll maps provided by Marketing Sherpa. Website designers and “maintainers” can use these tips to optimize their sites and improve their conversions — even without direct tracking data of their own.

1) People don’t read, they scan.

As we mentioned above, tracking maps can take some of the guesswork out of web design by showing exactly what your visitors are or are not doing.

HubSpot found that website visitors aren’t reading, they’re scanning — quickly perusing information on the page to find what they need and take the next step.

Designers and content writers who want to increase conversions should adapt to this reality by creating content for these ‘scanners.’

Bullet points and bold text can highlight key ideas, and short, simple sentences will keep users engaged — unlike long, unbroken blocks of text.

2) Images draw interest — even if they aren’t interesting.

People love to click on images. So much, in fact, that research shows people click on images that are not even linked to anything.

If your website is full of uninteresting stock images that don’t engage visitors, you’re missing out on potential leads that could help your business. Each image should contribute towards the goal of that page.

If you’re building a landing page, for example, the images should help convince people to submit their information. If you are sending out an email campaign, the images should convince people to click and visit your site or take advantage of an offer.

3) Get to the important stuff right away.

Online users’ reluctance to scroll, especially in search engine results, is one of the reasons that Google rankings are so important to businesses who want to grow online.

Research shows that “below the fold” content, which is not visible when you open the page because you need to scroll down to see it, will only be viewed by about half of your site’s visitors.

While an increase in mobile-friendliness has made scrolling more common in website design, it’s still a best practice to put your most important content, including a Call to Action, above the fold.

Why Follow Your Competitors When You Can Follow the Numbers?

By Business Growth, Education

When I meet with clients to talk about a website project, I usually ask if there is anything they like or dislike about their competitors’ websites. (Mostly I just want to make sure I’m giving the client what they want.)

Their answers are always different, and always interesting. Part of being a Web Designer & Developer includes looking at design trends and conversion data to figure out why certain elements work and others don’t.

Data is everywhere, and the tools to track and collect data are getting better and better. We rely on data to design websites for businesses that improve their chances of gaining new leads.

Understanding why designs succeed or fail helps me show clients how their website ideas might actually hurt their chances of engaging their audience and growing their business.

Don’t Be a Puffy Donut

We’re big donut fans here at Website Muscle. We’re not snobs or anything, but we think the best donuts are the ones that have some substance and flavor when you bite into them.

You know that puffy, sugar sprinkled donut that’s mostly air inside? That one is always left for last because you know, as soon as you pick it up, that there isn’t much to it.

We don’t want your website to be that puffy, air-filled donut. If your website is going to help your business, it needs substance (functionality) and flavor (good design). To create that substance, we like to get to know you and make sure that our ‘recipe’ (haha) is a good fit for your company.

Before we start, we want to know:

  • Who your target audience is
  • Where you get the most online traffic (mobile or desktop)
  • What your most popular or profitable service or product is

This type of information actually has a major impact on how I design pages. If you have a product that people love and it’s your biggest seller, we want the user to see that first! A good designer won’t make it difficult for users to find what they need.

Follow the Numbers, Not the Competition

Let’s leave the donuts behind and talk about motorcycles for a minute. Harley-Davidson, one of the most well-known brands in the world, has been in business since 1903. Now, my last name isn’t Harley or Davidson, but I’m pretty sure they haven’t succeeded for 110 years by blindly and blandly following what their competitors were doing.

As your website designer, I want to learn from your competitors, but ultimately improve on their choices. We want your company to be seen as ahead of the competition — in the best possible way, of course.

Trying to copy your competitors’ success by copying their web design may make sense at first, but your competitor’s design might not even be the reason they are succeeding.

An established audience or effective traditional marketing campaign might be powering their online success – and you may not have those assets for your own business yet. Improving on your competitors’ web design with data-driven decisions, however, can give you an advantage of your own.

It’s All About the Data

“Don’t focus on the competition; they’ll never give you money.”
— Jeff Bezos

My favorite thing about having all of this data to look at is that the numbers never lie. We don’t need to make decisions based on guesses and hope for the best.

We know that a design strategy based on data works better than blindly following a competitor because you think what they are doing is working.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the good things your competitors are doing. That’s why we study design trends in addition to data – there’s no wrong way to learn about improvements in web design.

But when you hire someone to build your website (or anyone else, for that matter) they should be able to explain the reasons for the decisions they make. If there are no justifiable reasons for our choices and we can’t defend our work, clients might feel taken advantage of and we won’t last very long.

Numbers don’t lie, and at the end of the day we want your numbers — for leads, for sales, for lunch budgets and holiday bonuses — to go up. By using data to guide website designs for our clients, we can lead businesses toward success instead of just following trends.