Website Heatmaps, an often heard but not-that-often used web tool to analyze your website or blog. Heatmap is a simple concept to analyze the most click-able segments of a web page, with a purpose of optimizing it for better revenue generation. Most of the webmasters, specially those handling small and medium size websites and blogs, know its importance, yet often overlook it, just because of unavailability of an affordable and reliable heatmap builder for their websites. This post is an attempt to let its readers benefit from this concept and introduce some cool free website heatmap generator services.

But first things first…

What is a website heatmap

Heatmap is a term, which has been borrowed by the Internet community from Molecular Biology, where it represent the level of expression of many genes across a number of comparable samples (e.g. cells in different states, samples from different patients) as they are obtained from DNA micro-arrays. [Source: Wiki]

However in reference to websites, a website heatmap is a schematic representation of a web page through multi-colored areas, which show where people look the most on a web page. For an publisher or advertiser it tells you the place your ads are likely to be most effective.

Importance of a website heatmap

Ever webmaster thinks that he has created a perfect design. But it is often just a perception. The perfection of a web page design can only be judged by a web tool, which is able to gather information about what the readers of a web page are actually seeing, and more importantly clicking. Since the purpose of every web page is to give maximum exposure to its content, it becomes highly important to place your content in such a location, which generates maximum impact.

This aspects becomes highly critical in case of websites or blogs, whose purpose if revenue generation through clicks. The web master will like to know, which are the hot spots on their web page and where people click most.

How to build a website heatmap

There are many heatmap building services available. But most of them are paid services, and if they offer you free service, it is limited to only few features. Two of the most popular heatmap generator applications are FuseStats and CrazyEgg but they charge for their service handsomely. Although they also offer free services, with limited features / traffic, but these limits are so stringent that websites within that limit rarely bother about heatmaps.

The free heatmap generators

However, I have come across at least two services, which are free and give satisfactory results for medium sized websites.

First one is ClickHeat, which is an open source program. You just have to upload their code to your site and follow the simple instructions on screen to install.

A basic common feature with all the three heatmap building services mentioned till now, is that they capture the actual clicks in real time. You have to set up the installation, and wait patiently for the clicks to happens. Each click sends the data to the server, and after a definite period / or visitor counts, the report is generated for you to analyze. Obviously this method to build website heatmap is more accurate, but time consuming.

Yet another method is based on some pre-defined algorithms, which simulate the human behavior. A popular and free heatmap generator service based upon this concept is Feng Gui. This service employs the neuroscience concept of “saliency” and claims to “simulate human visual attention and create an attention heatmap”. If you read their blog and their website, it seems their is a high degree of confidence in their algorithm as far as the accuracy is concerned. However, it would have been nice, if they had given some actual data on how close their simulated results are with the actual heat maps. This would have surely increased the confidence level of the users.

How to use Feng-Gui

Use of this service is extremely simple. Just go to their website and enter your URL address. Your website heatmap is generated within 30 seconds. See the heatmap of my blog Web Tools and Tips. Sometimes, the service is not able to load your webpage, in that case your can take a snap shot / screen capture of it and upload it as an image so as to quickly generate the heatmap.

Firefox Addon for Heatmap

And now comes the simplest of them all.

Feng-Gui also provides you a firefox addon, just for building a heat map of any web page. This is real cool. That’s why I love Firefox. You can install the firefox addon for heatmap here.

After reading this long post, if you still want to have more information, then DazzlinDonna has written a decent analysis of 5 Heatmap Site Analytics Solutions, which you may like to check out.