Heatmap, Hot or Not? Free Alternatives for Crazy Egg
Heatmaps are graphical overlays of your website which points out what content is hot and what not. This is mainly done by tracking the mouseclicks of the visitor. A more expensive model uses eyetracking to achieve this overlay. Although the results look the same, the two options are somewhat different.
The click-heatmap makes it possible to analyse the clicking behaviour of the visitor while the eyetracking-heatmap shows you where people actual look on your webpage.
So what can you do with a heatmap? It gives you the opportunity to look through the eyes of your visitors as they navigate on your website. For example: The heatmap shows that your advertisement is easily overlooked. Possible reasons: wrong colour, close to big images which capture more attention, … Just give the ads a more prominent place and see if the visitors pick up on this.
If you have dynamic content, it is a bit more difficult to take the full advantage of heatmaps (people click on different places if content changes). Instead of posting an article every day, you can consider doing so every week (or longer if you want to test longer).
I came up with this post because I was looking for an alternative for the site-overlay provided by google analytics. It’s not that this tool is useless, on the contrary, but the grass might be greener on the other side.
The first one I came across was Crazy Egg. A while ago this was a free service, but that’s not longer the case. They have various payment-options and if you have a look at the demo, you’ll notice that 9$ a month is not that much. If you prefer to have a free alternative for Crazy egg, you can just keep on reading… I also wrote an extensive review about Crazy Egg if you’re interested in this tool. It includes a link, giving my readers the opportunity to subscribe for a 60 day free trial.
A second heatmap is provided by Feng-Gui, which has a
free service for simple heatmaps. Feng-Gui (so they claim) forsees human’s attention and attraction, simply by uploading a screenshot. This method doesn’t track any mouseclicks but the heatmap is generated by an algorithm, which is fabricated by the results of numerous neurologic studies. To make sure this algorithm stays intact, Feng-Gui compares the results with actual eye-tracking methods.
Personally I think these results are based too much on assumptions instead of bulletproof evidence. Although the algorithm is constantly checked, changes can be made by the smallest detail. For example, what about people who read from right to left? They see your website completely different than you. One other point: you can only upload one screen shot every 5 hours when using the free version.
WordPress plugin #1
If you are using wordpress, maybe you can have a look at this wordpress plugin as well. After installing and activating the plugin, it starts to register mouseclicks. It is possible to generate heatmaps for every page and with a handy datepicker you can easily go back in time. You can set the time limit and memory in the provided php. Although this plugin is a good way to get started with heatmaps it doesn’t offer the possibility to generate weekly/monthly summaries, which makes testing a bit difficult.
Another free heatmap comes from Labs Media and is called Clickheat. This open source application uses php and needs to be installed on your server. To make things easier, they developed Clickheat as a wordpress plugin as well.
After several search strings into google I came across this article on heatmaps written by Matt Ridout and gave me some new insights of Labs Media. Apparently the plugin adds a little link into your webpages back to the website of Labs Media, which can conflict with some searchengines. It’s not difficult to remove the link, but I’m not really fond of this kind of strategy.
The next free trackingsystem is called “The definite heatmap” by Corunet and is a “do it yourself solution”. Corunet gives you the opportunity to build your own heatmap, this way you have a better understanding how these programs work. For the lazy people among us: you can download all necessary files at the end of the tuturial. I will give this a try later on and will let you know the outcome.
Although I’ve never used ClickDensity, I heard quiet a lot about this analytics tool. They offer a 30 day trail, in which you can fully test the functionalities. If people are using this package, please let me know. Because it got so many good reviews, I’ll be giving this tool a try as well. This is part of the latest update (see below).
As mentioned before, heatmaps are better used on static websites than dynamic ones. The content on dynamic website is often changed (e.g. new posts/comments on blogs), this in contrast with the coordinates of the recorded clicks made by the visitors. This shouldn’t be a problem if you update your blog/website monthly and attract a serious amount of visitors.
Continue reading on the second page where you’ll find all the latest updates with the newest heatmap systems.