Turn up the heat

It’s Thursday night, the kids are in bed. So a good time to turn on the television. Coincidence or not, a new episode of ‘Kamp van Koningsbrugge’ is starting. A great Dutch television show about perseverance and team spirit during a Special Forces command training. Participants have been awake for hours. They’ve hardly eaten and fighting their sleep. And on top of that, another night assignment is going to start. They must find tags with their own names. The only equipment the participants are given are a headlamp, a compass and a map. A challenge, considering the little sleep and the surrounding landscape that remains hidden in the dark night. Add to that the enormous physical fatigue and the cold and you have a bellowing task.


It is nice to see how the different participants deal with this. One person struggles a lot, another struggles less and yet another person does not. Afterwards we evaluate the different challenges that everyone experienced. What I (Wim Snoep) wondered while watching this assignment: How can you further train yourself on such a situation? Can you learn from your navigational mistakes? Or learn from others? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to look back, how did I run? Where did I go wrong? How did the other person do during their route to the same point? What did I see around, for example, at 3am? And of course you’ll be needing a tracker that can tell you this. However, imagine that you are wearing one. Then you could make a map of your route(s) that night, and map the routes of others. Then you can compare those routes. Where did I stand still a lot? What was I looking at at the time? What, if anything, was I looking for? Can I see and experience again what I saw? And did anyone else experienced that too?

Such a visualization is very useful to practically recognize where your routes could be better. Where everyone got stuck, which point was the easiest to reach, and so on. You may call such a visualization a heatmap. Heatmaps allow you to see through “heat images” what hotspots are and which places were visited sporadically(er). Very valuable in the above situation.

From a ‘Special Forces’ heatmap to an organization

Take this thought towards your organization. Like any business, we use many types of business applications to do our jobs. For example, as a controller, as a buyer, as an engineer in the factory. Do we know exactly how the different applications work? How effective they are? Where the improvement areas are?

As you can imagine, a heatmap can provide a very enlightening picture. A heatmap shows which features in your application are being used, or not. A heatmap also shows which buttons are being used (or not) and how much is clicked. In return, this can lead to further research. Why aren’t they being used? Which audience is using the applications and which not? For example, it could become visible that certain buttons are not visible in a type of browser. You can imagine that once you can monitor the usage, or get a picture of what 10,000 users a day do, (or don’t) in different applications, this gain many insights.

An example:



  • There are several solutions that you can “plug in” to your web appplication(s) and therefore explore behavior and functionalities. Some examples of solutions:
  • Mouse movement by individual user.
  • Heatmaps by application. In the heatmap are colors, representing whether there is much or little activity within your application. Again distinguishable in click maps, scroll maps, mouse maps.
  • Clicks by individual user.
  • No activity/focus (more) insight.
  • Recording of activity of a user. This allows you to see the mouse movements and click actions. It also allows you to map your user flow.
  • Blur/display certain parts of the screen. For example when the user’s name is displayed at the top right, or content data that could be related back to a user.
  • Filtering/segmenting data in the heatmap.
  • Export/import data/user segments.

Depending on the solution, sometimes more or less is offered than the list above.

Click map, Scroll map, Movement Map

Click map

Click maps are very useful to see if users use buttons, or where they expect a button. You can also find out, when a feature is accessible in two ways, which one is used the most (or stands out).

Scroll map (left) and movement map (right):

A scroll map uses color to reveal how many users actually scroll down your page. For example, how well is a blog or article being read? Or, another example, is the person looking for something they can’t find because they don’t scroll down far enough?

A Movement map shows the location of the mouse pointer. Very interesting because often a user ‘reads’ by moving the mouse over the page. This allows you to easily figure out, what is read/viewed a lot, where people are ‘standing still’ for a long(er) time. You can also see if a user is looking for something. This all can be an indication for you to simplify things a bit.

In particular, the combination between the recordings of user behavior and the different maps above, give you a very good picture of where possible areas of attention/improvement are.

You often see this heatmap software deployed alongside implicit feedback (looking along in number of users per application or page) or explicit feedback (asking about experience). Some solutions offer a combination of implicit feedback.

Well-known heatmap tools are;

  • Mouseflow
  • Contentsquare(Clicktale)
  • Hotjar

How does it work?

Well, actually very simple. A small piece of javascript needs to be added to the web page code. This is often very easy with custom-built applications that also have active changes on them. Is it a standard SAAS solution as an application? Then adding a piece of script may not be possible or very difficult. Should your organization use implicit- or explicit feedback solutions, the script can undoubtedly be combined with these. Even more convenient is to use a tag manager that provides the script for the in the application. In the Tag Manager, the link can be made to a heatmap, analytics or explicit feedback solution.

Want to know more about optimizing UX?

Want to learn more about different heatmap solutions or about feedback collection in general? Feel free to leave a message below or contact us.

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