Website heatmaps have revolutionised how major companies, particularly the ones trying to sell you something, design their website. For those of us unfamiliar with heatmaps they’re graphical overlays which demonstrate ‘high’ usage parts of a webpage.
In the early days of the Internet such information seemed unnecessary. But now, people click a lot faster than before with most webpages only open for a matter of seconds. This is thanks to both increased user browsing ability and faster connections.
So with the likes of Amazon making use of ‘Big Data’ to capture your every twitch of the mouse how can us little guys still make a buck from our website. Well MouseStats claim that they offer highly accurate heatmaps to small users. But I was sceptical. Heatmaps have been reserved for larger companies involving expensive software packages. If MouseStats actually can offer heatmaps for your website are they any use to small businesses?
The first task having set up an account is to take your unique piece of HTML code and paste it into your website. If you’re using WordPress or a similar platform it’s as easy as pasting it into the theme’s coding in the online editor. If not you’ll have to update your websites coding directly and paste it in.
Once that’s done you can select in your account what pages you want to monitor.
Initially I wanted to checkout some heatmaps to see where my website was falling down. This was until I discovered the ability to watch visitor playback videos. These are essentially recorded screencasts of visits to your website. They’re high quality videos showing you exactly what the visitor sees including their mouse and scrolling. When they click a little red dot is recorded on the screen.
No only did it give me a good idea about how an average user might behave on a site but it enabled me to track their exact path through the pages. This would be really useful if you’re selling a product. Maybe a user is leaving the buy page to view another webpage, which in turn sends them off on a tangent leaving only a lost sale in their wake.
The heatmaps themselves are pretty cool too. They look like weather charts except with a bottom layer being a webpage as opposed to mountain ranges. Red areas indicate high areas of activity. As you move down the colour spectrum activity decreases with blue indicating little or no user presence. From this you can draw many conclusions such as where to position ads and how long to make your webpage (many users seem to never scroll at all from what I can see!).
There are a few different kinds of heat maps which measure different kinds of activity including clicks, scrolling, mouse movement and user attention. The maps can be customised based on the time of visit such as past 30 days or ‘all time’.
Their AreaStats tool is pretty interesting, although I thought it seemed a little redundant and doesn’t really offer much that the heatmap doesn’t. For complex web pages or those with lots of imagery heat maps and click trackers wouldn’t give the best results because the user is interacting with the whole webpage. This enables you to select different sections of your website (simply by dragging a rectangle over each area). When you come back after enough users have visited the websites you can access a bar chart tracking the amount of use each section of the webpage has gotten.
You also get a little bit of other information such as browser type and screen resolution used by visitors.Of course all of these are available in free analytics tools such as Google Analytics. All of the reports generated in MouseStats are real time and available instantly.
It’s worth mentioning heatmaps are useless unless you plan to do something with the results. Depending on the complexity that could mean a weekend of DIY trial and error coding or bringing in developers. Either way there’s no point in paying for software when the results will sit on a shelf.
In terms of alternatives Clicktale and CrazyEgg offer similar services but not as many features. Clicktale being the better of the two. However MouseStats still out does both when it comes to features.
Pricing is another area in which MouseStats really shines. It only costs $16 per month which I thought was quite cheap when compared to the other two, charging $99 and $74 per month. There’s no contracts either so for small blogs you could just run it for a month, make changes and disable the service.
Overall I really liked MouseStats. In terms of the app itself it does what it says on the tin. The user interface could be better and more features such as regular reports included. But the target market of small personal websites and stores would only be using it every so often.
For anyone interested in increasing visitor purchases by moving the ‘Buy Now’ button or wondering where’s the best place to put ads on your blog this kind of information is a goldmine.
For the price they charge and the level of features you get this is definitely the best heatmap analytics tool available for small web businesses.
MouseStats is a web app which allows users to montor how visitors interact with their website. It generates heatmaps based on mouse movements, scrolling and attention so developers can better design website to increase ad clicks, conversions or enhance user experience.9