How to Use Website Behavior Maps – Lessons from Three Prominent Organizations
For digital analytics to be valuable it has to help you optimize your web presence. In order to do this, you need a clearer understanding of what exactly visitors do when they are interacting with your website. Enter Behavior Maps.
Behavior Maps are visual, page-level presentations of every single action a visitor performs when on a given page of your website. Behavior Maps are now part of Siteimprove’s Analytics module and consist of three components: A Heat Map, a Scroll Map, and a Click Map.
These three functionalities help answer questions such as, but not limited to:
- what draws visitors’ attention?
- how far down on a page are visitors willing to scroll?
- how do visitors interact with a page’s elements?
Some of Siteimprove’s users have already tried out Behavior Maps on their websites, uncovering some quite surprising insights about how their sites are actually used by visitors. We would like to share these eye-openers with you as they are likely to be applicable to your daily web management work.
1. Critical information is better hidden than you think
Among the test users of Behavior Maps was a large university. One of the school’s most important pages contained application guidelines for international students. A quick evaluation of the page using the Heat Map showed two very clear warm spots of visitor interaction: ‘Application fees’ and ‘Language tests’.
Now, by relying only on black-on-white analytics data in the form of numbers, one would draw the logical conclusion that a very high amount of visitors to this specific page found these two critical links without any problems. However, with the on-page visualization offered by Heat Map it became very clear that these two links were almost next to invisible when casting a first glance on the page: Both links were placed in-line in text paragraphs within an extensive table. One of them was even located near the bottom of the table so that it required some scrolling to get to.
Another example was that of a federal financial institution. The Click Map showed that among their most sought after elements on their website was a specific PDF document regarding certain financial regulations. The document was tucked away on a page which served no other purpose than to host this document. Why not make this file available for download directly from the home page?
2. Your most popular content might not be your own
The same financial institution found that the most popular content on their website was a table of exchange rates. The exchange rates were presented in a widget close to the bottom of the home page, and the Scroll Map showed that, in general, visitors were willing to scroll in order to find them.
The exchange rate data was provided by a third-party plugin, so the cursor activity would not have been picked up by a regular click-measuring tool – but with the Heat Map, the bank’s web team was able to identify that a significant amount of their visitors came to their site for this specific piece of information. This insight was quite an eye-opener as it turned out that the table with exchange rate was not even present on the mobile version of the home page, making it difficult for visitors who relied on this institution for information to check current exchange rates on the fly.
3. In some cases, search filters are rarely used…
In the case of the university, another interesting page to analyze was their careers page. The page contained a long list of job postings presented in a table showing only a limited number of entries at a time, which required that visitors clicked ‘Next’ to keep browsing the job postings. The careers page also offered visitors the ability to refine their search with the help of filters and even create an automated job search agent. Surprisingly, a Heat Map analysis clearly showed that these options were hardly ever used, and that visitors were actually willing to manually browse the entire job catalogue.
4. …and in other cases, search filters are extensively used
The opposite was the case on the website of a law firm. A primary reason for visitors to come to the site is to find the legal consultant suited for their specific situation. This was very evident on the law firm’s employee page called ‘Our People’. The page contained detailed filtering options allowing for very refined searches. However, two filters were used way more than the others: ‘Specialty’ and ‘Office’, meaning that potential clients were very determined in finding legal counsel based on the consultants’ professional expertise and physical location, whereas other factors such as ‘Name’ were less important.
The two opposite cases presented above indicate that when determining the structure and design of webpages containing a list, table, or database of entries meant for the visitor to search in, it is important to consider whether the visitors are more likely to be taking their time exploring the page or whether they are more likely to do very targeted searches.
Unlock the full potential of your website
Siteimprove’s Behavior Maps were developed and designed with web editors in mind, and we took particular care to design Behavior Maps in a way that would increase work satisfaction for those working with websites on a daily basis. The idea is that web editors and managers should enjoy the instant gratification of seeing that people actually use the content that the web team has been working on, without having to sift through numbers and charts. We are confident that Behavior Maps will bring more joy to web teams’ daily problem-solving.