What Is a Heat Map? (Next Gen Market Research Toolbox, Pt. 1)


In part 1 of our “Next Generation Market Research Toolbox,” we explore heat maps and how heatmapping can be used in a market research setting – specifically within private online communities – to uncover customer insights.


What is a heat map?

A heat map is a visual representation of where users click on a static image, such as a webpage or uploaded graphic, in response to prompts, and (optionally) provide brief explanations of why they clicked where they did.

In market research, heatmapping can be used to record and analyze consumers’ reactions to static websites, wireframe images, complex print ads, or other visual materials.

In online communities, heatmapping can be used to:

  • Create visualizations that quantify and depict member reactions
  • Track clicks (and enable members to augment clicks with comments)
  • Discover which areas of a visual respondents like or dislike, respond strongly to, or pay the most attention to.

Heat Maps + Online Communities = So hot right now

My role at Communispace gives me the chance to play with cool, new stuff, and find innovative ways to uncover insights for our clients.  If I had our current innovative toolset on speed-dial, heatmapping would be programmed in right after my mom.  A few reasons why our partner, Usabilla’s heatmapping tool and Communispace communities are a match made in online market research heaven:

  • An Awesome User Experience: Members love it.  A heatmapping activity is quick and dynamic.  Members are given one targeted prompt at a time, and respond by leaving clicks and (optional) notes.
  • True “Click-Tracking” Accuracy: Unlike traditional quadrant-based click tracking, where members indicate what general section of an image caught their attention, etc., we can determine exactly where each click occurred, giving us more targeted results.
  • Everyone’s Invited: Since results are aggregated, we can invite an entire community to participate in the same heatmapping activity.  Additionally, we can get a quick read on what elements of a website/poster/brochure are appealing/unappealing/etc. to hundreds of members, just by looking at the heatmaps.

Heatmapping is best suited for feedback-type explorations when we’re looking for direct, visually aggregated response to a specific stimulus.  In a heatmapping pilot with one of our clients, we showed members a 7 page-long brochure, and asked them to show us which elements on each page were useful and which elements were discouraging when deciding to whether or not to purchase the product.  Members were also able to explain why they clicked where they did by leaving short comments corresponding with each of their clicks.

A heat map generated by Communispace to learn about how consumers responded to an advertisement.

In the heatmap above, the frequency of clicks in a specific region corresponds to the intensity in color.  The spectrum used goes from violet, which represents a lower concentration of clicks to red, which represents a higher concentration of clicks. The rollover shows that a member has added a comment, sharing his reaction to part of the image.

Coupling a heatmapping activity with a traditional in-community survey allows us to gather both overall and targeted feedback from our members in an efficient and effective way.  And that’s got us feeling pretty hot (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcCYx5oFz3g).

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