How to Read a Heatmap: 5 Things to Consider

Be aware of how to read a heatmap - don't repeat these common mistakes.

how to read a heatmap

“All I know is that I know nothing.”

Nobody has to be as sophisticated as Socrates, yet one can’t know everything about the users of your mobile app. Asymmetrical information is a big problem when working on mobile apps.

It’s hard to know exactly what users are doing when they use an app. This can lead to lower conversion rates.

Heatmaps are a visualization of a large amount of data. They represent the touch activities of users by means of color in concentrated form.

There are traps that can falsify the heatmap analysis. We present a list of five things to consider when reading a heatmap.

Prepare the Heatmap Analysis

reading a heatmap

Don’t start to read heatmaps blindly.

Experienced analysts think about a goal they want to achieve with their touch heatmap analysis. This helps to approach the analysis more objectively and to work more systematically.

Overall, less time is wasted with an unnecessary and aimless analysis that comes to nothing or can even lead to misinterpretations.

This is, in spite of the brevity, one of the most important points to keep in mind before you start reading a heatmap.

Don’t Rush While Analyzing Heatmaps

More data is always better here to get a holistic overview of users. How many visitors you should wait for before you start your analysis depends on the traffic in your app. 

However, experts say as a rule of thumb that at least 2000 users should have visited the respective screen in order to make a reliable statement about their usage behavior.

Otherwise, the analysis could be based on a few individual users that are not representative of all users. If features are adapted to these few users, the change might even be a disadvantage.

It’s better to wait a little longer than to have a poor database for your analysis.

Segment Data While Analysing

how to read a heatmap segmenting

Each coin has two sides. When analyzing touch heatmaps, you are faced with even more options.

The ambiguity of the interpretation of a heatmap leads to the fact that the simplest explanation might be the right one, but it can also be the opposite.

Since you weren’t sitting next to your users while they were using your app, you can never be sure what exactly caused their activity.

But this problem can also be mitigated a bit: Segment users and consider the circumstances of their use. Common distinctions are listed here:

  • First visitors of the app and returners / regular users
  • Whether the user session ended successfully or ended in a crash
  • The order of the clicks (UXCam, for example, allows you to see only the first or last click)
  • The time of day when the app was used (e.g. day/night or weekday/weekend)
  • The amount of time a user has spent on the screen

This will give an intimate insight into the usage habits of your users, from which the next steps can be taken to improve your UX or mobile app.

Here, too, the effort of differentiation will pay off for everyone involved.

Use Tools That Complement Heatmaps

Heatmaps are just one of many analysis tools.

Take advantage of this variety and add more tools to your analysis.

Weigh up what could bring you even more benefits in order to achieve the goal you set yourself in Point 1. Session replays for example can provide additional input.

But also further statistics on the general use of your app (UXCam offers a variety of statistics on users and sessions) can be helpful here. No tool is perfect in itself, but a combination of different tools can come close.

Compare Results After Changes Were Made

read a heatmap comparison

To find out if the changes you’ve made in your mobile app are doing what you had in mind, you can compare the heatmaps before and after your change.

This can be very informative and will help you to assess the value of your change. Change does not end after implementation. It has to be analyzed constantly and if necessary, improved further in order to achieve the most satisfactory overall result possible.

Conclusion

Heatmaps are a tool with many advantages. With this list you are well prepared for your next analysis.

Try our mobile app heatmaps for free to get started with the analysis.