Website Heatmapping Guide: Types of Heatmaps and How To Read Them

Kateryna Ryzha
Content Marketer
11 minute read
Kateryna Ryzha
Content Marketer
11 minute read

Understanding website visitors is key in the digital world. This is where the magic of website heatmaps comes into play. Believe it or not, they’re a go-to tool for many marketers. When asked why visitors didn’t trust a certain website, 94% of the answers were directly related to web design, while only 6% were about specific content. This highlights the importance of making a good impression with your website design. So, let’s jump right into exploring how to read heatmaps and their types.

Imagine having a tool that uses a rainbow of colors to illustrate the goings-on of your website. That’s the role of a webpage heatmap. It’s a straightforward method to see what’s catching your visitors’ eyes and what’s not. Learning how to read a heatmap is akin to having a secret map that points you toward making your website more engaging and user-friendly.

Real-time data analysis with HitMetrix by Phonexa provides website heatmaps that decode user interactions like clicking, scrolling, and tapping. HitMetrix records mouse movements, offering insights into how to improve customer experience. It’s beneficial for conversion tracking, identifying issues in the user journey, and enhancing conversion rate optimization (CRO).

This guide is your one-stop shop for understanding the different types of heatmaps. We’ll explain how to read a heatmap, analyze user website visit patterns, and make wise, data-informed enhancements to your website.

The Evolution and Application of Website Heatmaps

Heatmaps have a fascinating history, tracing back to the 19th century. They were used to visualize complex data sets through color-coded systems and were initially employed in fields such as

  • Meteorology and climate science: Used for visualizing weather patterns, temperature distributions, and climate data.
  • Medical and healthcare: Employed in various diagnostic processes, such as imaging (MRI, CT scans) and analyzing biological data.
  • Geographic information systems (GIS): Used in mapping as a visual representation of data, like population density, land use, environmental changes, and more.

This method of data visualization became invaluable for presenting large amounts of information in an easily digestible format. The first known heatmap was used to depict a variety of social statistics in Paris. The heatmap employed dark grey and black to represent metrics with higher values, while bright colors such as white and light grey were utilized to represent metrics with lower values.

Source: Wikimedia

The advent of digital technology saw heatmaps evolve into a powerful tool for website analysis. As the internet became increasingly integral to business and communication, understanding user behavior on websites turned crucial. This led to the adoption of heatmaps for website analytics, revolutionizing how website owners view user interaction.

Nowadays, website heatmaps serve as visual guides, showcasing areas of high and low engagement through color variations. This visual representation allows for quick and intuitive analysis of user behavior, such as where they click most, how far they scroll, and what parts of a website attract the most attention.

The study by the Nielsen Norman Group highlighted the impact of website heatmaps, revealing that users often spend 57% of their viewing time above the fold. This statistic underscores the importance of strategic content placement on web pages.

Source: Nielsen Norman Group

This innovative application of website heatmaps in web analytics has not only provided insights into user engagement but also revolutionized web design and content strategy, making it a staple in the toolbox of digital marketers and website designers.

Types of Website Heatmaps and How to Read Them

Scroll Heatmaps

When you’re browsing a site and casually scrolling through, ever wonder if someone’s tracking how far down you go? Well, that’s what scroll heatmaps are all about. They’re like a secret snapshot that shows how far users scroll on a website before they hit the brakes. It’s especially important for marketers because it tells them if visitors are actually seeing the part of the page that they were supposed to see or if it is just floating in the web space unseen.

So, to learn how to read a heatmap, specifically a scroll website heatmap, you need to look out for two aspects:

  1. Color coding: Usually, warmer colors (like orange and red) show places where more people have scrolled to and maybe spent more time. Cooler colors, like blue and green, mean that not as many people have been to those spots.
  2. Gradient shifting: Moving from warm to cool colors shows where fewer people are scrolling past. A big drop-off point can be shown by a quick change from warm to cool colors.

Let’s take a look at an example of a scroll heatmap and analyze its visitors’ engagement.

  • High engagement: The section titled “Beirut Battle Rap and Revolution” has a lot of warm colors, indicating high user engagement. This could mean that the topic is of significant interest to visitors.
  • Moderate engagement: The articles under “Featured City Guides” have a mix of warmer and cooler colors, suggesting moderate engagement. Users are interested, but there may be a significant drop-off as they scroll down.
  • Potential drop-off points: The sections at the very bottom have cooler colors, indicating that not many users are reaching this point. It’s possible that key information or links at the bottom are being missed by most visitors.

Click Heatmaps

Click heatmaps aggregate the clicks on a webpage into a color-coded map, where the most clicked areas are highlighted in warm colors. As the number of clicks decreases, the colors cool down to blues and greens. This immediate visual feedback uncovers what’s hot and what’s not, allowing us to understand user behavior at a glance.

To be able to analyze click heatmap data, consider these points:

Color Indicators The colors range from hot to cold, with hot colors indicating areas with a high number of clicks and cold colors representing areas with fewer clicks.
Size of Dots The size of the dots or clusters often represents the volume of clicks. Larger dots mean more clicks.
Placement The position of the dots on the webpage elements—such as navigation, buttons, or images—shows where users are most actively clicking.
Dead Clicks Clicks on areas that don’t have a link or function, so-called “dead clicks”, can signal a mismatch between user expectations and webpage design.

Based on the following click heatmap, let’s figure out how to read it and what it indicates.

  1. Navigation bar: There is significant activity on the navigation bar, particularly on the “Home”, “Cart”, and “Login” options, suggesting these are important to users.
  2. Main banner: The main banner, especially the “Get it now” button, has a high concentration of clicks, indicating a strong call-to-action that is effectively capturing user attention.
  3. Category section: There are moderate clicks on the category section, which means users are interested in exploring different categories, but perhaps less so than other sections.
  4. Featured items: The featured items show a good deal of interaction, with particular hotspots on specific products, which could indicate popular items or effective placement.
  5. Search function: The search function shows minimal interaction, which might imply that users find what they need through the navigation or that the search is not prominently placed or enticing enough.
  6. Peripheral elements: Peripheral elements such as social media icons show very low interaction, which is typical as these are not usually the primary focus for users on an e-commerce site.

Mouse Tracking Heatmaps

With mouse tracking heatmaps, the moves and stops of a user’s mouse are put together to show how engaged they are with a screen. Cooler colors, like blues, show less action, while warmer colors, like reds and yellows, show where people hovered, stopped, and showed interest.

Don’t miss out on some important aspects when reading such website heatmap:

  1. Color coding: As with other different types of heatmaps, the color coding on a mouse movement heatmap generally ranges from hot to cold. Hot areas are where there’s been a lot of mouse activity, suggesting that users are focusing their attention there. Cooler areas indicate less mouse movement.
  2. Size and shape of hotspots: The concentration and spread of warm colors can tell you not just about points of interest but also how users are reading or scanning your page. Large, widespread hotspots might indicate areas where a user is pausing to read, while narrow trails might show the path the user’s mouse takes as they scan through the content.

Analyzing the provided mouse tracking heatmap, we can conclude:

Page Element Heatmap Color User Behavior Indicated
Header Area Hot (Red/Yellow) High interest in ‘Products’ and ‘Resources’ links, indicating these are key areas of user focus.
Blog Search Function Hot (Red/Yellow) Active use of the search function, showing users are seeking specific information.
Main Article Title Hot (Red/Yellow) Strong attention to the article title, suggesting it is effectively capturing user interest.
Article Content Cool to Moderate (Green/Blue) Scattered movement indicating reading or skimming, with no strong focus on specific content.
Sidebar Content Hot (Red/Yellow) High interaction, possibly due to interest or distraction by sidebar advertisements or related content.

Eye-Tracking Heatmaps

Eye-tracking heatmaps are specialized visual representations that illustrate where people look on a screen, detailing the frequency and duration of their gaze on specific areas of a webpage. They are generated using eye-tracking technology, which employs cameras or sensors to detect where and for how long a user’s eyes focus on different parts of the screen.

Eye-tracking website heatmaps are based on actual visual attention data gathered through eye-tracking devices. In contrast, scroll heatmaps aggregate user scrolling behavior, and click heatmaps and mouse-tracking heatmaps compile user interactions through mouse clicks or taps on a screen.

An eye-tracking study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group found that users often read web pages in an F-shaped pattern, suggesting that the top and left sides of the screen receive more attention from users. This behavior is significant for web design, emphasizing the need to place the most important information in these high-attention areas to ensure that it is seen by most visitors.

Based on the following eye-tracking website heatmap, we can indicate the following aspects:

Page Element Heatmap Color User Behavior Indicated
Header Area Hot (Red/Yellow) Headlines capture significant attention, indicating effective positioning and content interest.
“REQUEST DEMO” Button Hot (Red/Yellow) The call-to-action button is a key focal point, suggesting a strong potential for conversions.
Product Description Text Moderate (Yellow/Green) There is interest in the product details but less intensity compared to the headline and button, suggesting a secondary level of engagement.

How To Optimize Website Using Website Heatmaps

Website heatmaps are not just colorful data overlaid on your website — they’re a goldmine of insights into user behavior and interaction. When used strategically, they can transform your website from a static digital brochure into a dynamic user-focused experience that actively guides visitors toward conversion. Here’s how to leverage the power of website heatmaps for better optimization:

  1. Identify usability issues. Scroll heatmap can help you identify and reveal if crucial information is positioned too low on the page. Rearrange your content so that high-value sections are within the immediate view.
  2. Enhance content engagement. Mouse movement heatmaps often mimic reading patterns. Align your text and content layout to match these patterns for better content absorption.
  3. Improve conversion rates:
  • Use website heatmaps to analyze which fields in your forms are causing users to drop off. Simplify forms by removing or altering these troublesome fields.
  • Ensure your CTAs stand out by placing them in hot zones identified by click heatmaps. If they’re in cold zones, it’s time to move them up or make them more visually compelling.
  1. Tailor design elements. Eye-tracking heatmap can help balance the visual elements on your page to ensure they’re drawing attention without overwhelming the user. Replace or adjust images that fail to draw attention or distract from more important elements, as indicated by a lack of focus on eye-tracking website heatmaps.
  2. Utilize the fold. Scroll heatmaps will show how far most users scroll down. Keep your most important information ‘above the fold’, which is part of the webpage visible without scrolling.


Decoding the Digital Landscape: The Final Word on Website Heatmaps

Understanding user behavior is paramount, and website heatmaps are the compass that guides businesses through the complexities of online interaction. The journey through our comprehensive guide illuminates the nuanced world of website heatmaps, unraveling their history and revolutionary impact on web analytics. From the color-coded storytelling of scroll heatmaps to the precision of click and mouse tracking heatmaps, we’ve decoded the language of user engagement.

Equipped with comprehensive tips, marketers can now harness this visual power, transforming raw heatmap data into actionable strategies that optimize content, enhance user experiences, and drive conversions. In the end, mastering website heatmaps is not just about observing—it’s about evolving your digital presence to meet and exceed the modern user’s expectations.

Secure your premier software for behavior analytics and conversion rate optimization to gain insights into user interactions. Alternatively, set up a consultation to learn how Phonexa can enable you to fully leverage the power of website analytics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are website heatmap tools, and how can they improve my website’s performance?

Website heatmap tools are software applications that visualize user behavior on your site by showing where your visitors are clicking, scrolling, and looking. They use color-coded systems to indicate levels of interaction, allowing you to see at a glance what areas are drawing attention and which are not.

How to read a heatmap to understand user engagement on my website

Reading a website heatmap involves interpreting the color patterns on your webpage. Typically, warm colors like red and orange highlight areas of high engagement, where users frequently click or spend time, while cooler colors indicate less interaction.

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Kateryna Ryzha avatar
Kateryna Ryzha
Content Marketer

Kateryna Ryzha specializes in crafting compelling narratives for a diverse range of topics. Known for their ability to distill complex ideas into engaging, easy-to-understand copy, Kateryna excels in creating persuasive content that resonates with target audiences.

Education: Paderborn University

Expertise: Lead Generation, Digital Marketing, SEO Skills


  • Over 10 years of digital copywriting experience, specializing in SEO-optimized content

  • Expertise in crafting compelling copy for diverse industries, including technology, lifestyle, and e-commerce

  • Regular contributor to digital marketing blogs and guest lecturer on digital copywriting strategies

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