"Inspired By My Mouse" or "Heat Maps"

"Inspired By My Mouse" or "Heat Maps"

I've experimented with a number of mice over the last couple of years (I don't mean the fuzzy kind) and keep coming back to this 10-dollar HP optical mouse. It was the first mouse I had that glowed all the time, and maybe for that reason it's carved out a special place in my heart.

Because this particular mouse has been subject to so much handling, it's got some battle marks. Take a look:

Because there are multiple layers of finish on the hand rest and buttons on the mouse, you can see exactly which parts of the mouse sustain the most wear. Even though it's probably not heat so much as friction which caused this wear, I would naturally call this distribution of wear a 'heat map'

What's a heat map? Remember Predator.

Back with even the darkest movies had a healthy dose of cheesy, and CGI effects were limited, Predator captivated me as a child. Somehow I was allowed to watch this gruesome, Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle in my formative years, and the only parts that were really cool were when the Predator was camouflaged, and when we were looking through Predator's eyes and saw this cool view of the world that was composed of red and yellow blobs (i.e. infrared). The data gleaned from the infrared view allowed the creature to predict where it was most likely to find it's next meal. The hotter it was, the closer to the red end of the spectrum it would appear. (Another example of Buckingham Palace's energy loss).

My guess is that there's a couple of reasons why this kind of visual is attractive to us. One is the pretty colors. The other is that it gives us a real, tangible graph of a specific metric. For the Predator, it was heat. For Buckingham Palace, it's energy loss. For me - if I can find a decent program - this kind of map could tell me a lot about how to optimize my site for my visitors.

Optimizing a web site using a heat map (or click map)

A click map is a heat map based generated on where your users click. Google Analytics provides a rough kind of click / heat map, but it only shows you how many clicks a particular link got. And if more than one of your links goes to the same page, all the clicks will be counted together, which skews the data. Plus, you can't tell where on the link they clicked, whether it was on an icon, on the first word, the period at the end - you just don't know.

The Mission: find a good, cheap heat map / click map program

While I've been interested in using heat maps for quite some time, I've been fairly satisfied with the metrics I get form Google Analytics and my web host's server log analyzer. However, for the sheer coolness factor of it, I think it's time to see if I can get myself into a good click maps program on the cheap. I'll go ahead and post my reviews here so other web site owners have an easier time of picking a good heat map / click map product. Stay tuned!

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