Design Corner, Search Engine Optimization

SEO Toolbox: Heat Maps and Functional Redesign

By Ryan Cecil on February 25, 2019

How can heat maps help inspire SEO driven redesign and more productive websites

Have you ever tried to build something from IKEA without an allen wrench? If so, you know how important a simple tool can be. Heat maps are a simple tool, too, and they can be a great help when it comes to designing or redesigning pages and websites.

Now, it’s going to be pretty hard to use a heat map on a website that isn’t fully designed, so for SEO and web design, heat maps are more common as part of a redesign process. But what exactly is a heat map, and how can it help? And what is functional redesign?

What are heat maps?

Heat maps are pretty straightforward. They are essentially a way to measure activity. You’ve probably seen them in the local news for weather reports or maps that show the density of votes during an election. The more intense a color, the more activity. Pretty simple, right?

For web design, it’s mostly the same. Mapping software records user interaction with a site: where people clicked, how far down they scrolled, or where the cursor spent most of its time. It lets designers see where people spend their time and how they’re interacting with site content.

What is functional redesign?

Redesign can mean a lot of things. Rebuild, restructure, remodel. In web design it usually refers to remaking a website. Changing the visuals, moving links around, all that good stuff. When we talk about functional redesign, we’re talking about renovating the site from both a visual and a functional perspective.

Giving a site a facelift is important, but reorganizing the site to improve user engagement, flow, and overall functionality is a key factor. A website should be more than a digital billboard.

So Why Heat Maps?

For the enterprising reader, you can probably already see where we’re going. Utilizing the information we get from heat maps allows us to figure out what sort of content most users are engaging with. With that information, we can tailor redesigns to streamline that interaction or figure out where we need to improve.

We’ve got a lot of great examples from our own experience. One of the things we’ve noticed is that users tend to head straight for the About Us section on most websites. Whether it’s the personal information or a company voice they’re looking for, tons of clicks and traffic move through the About Us section of websites. Buttons are also popular.

It sounds like common sense, and in a lot of ways it is. But without a heat map, we might not know exactly why users aren’t interacting with certain elements on the page. Heat maps work to show which elements aren’t working, too. Say you implemented a CTA or a button that leads to your sales page and there’s no traffic. If you check the heat map and notice that people aren’t clicking or hovering over those features, it can be a signal to improve or redesign the page to make those buttons, CTAs, and interactables more attractive for users.

Heating Things Up

When it comes to functional redesign, heat maps are just one piece of the puzzle. Where heat maps can show you which visual aspects of your website are working and which parts are falling short, you can back up that data with things like Google Analytics and keyword research to double down on the SEO efficiency of your site.

If we know people are making a beeline for the About Us page, it would make sense to optimize that page and add some vital links somewhere on the page. If we’ve got a lot of people leaving the site before they reach important information near the bottom, it can prompt a redesign that shifts that content to be higher up the page.

Some heat maps even offer a recording option, that shows you a “real time” recording of how some users spent their time on the page. If you notice people looking for information and leaving before they find it, it’s a great indicator that you should make that information more readily available. With heat maps and recording, it’s a lot easier to see exactly where that content should go.

Tools & Trade

One of the great things about implementing a heat map is that it offers a ton of insight for a relatively low cost. With software like Crazy Egg and Lucky Orange, designers can introduce a whole new layer of understanding to their design and redesign process. With more efficient websites and a better understanding of user interaction, you can see real improvements in the productivity of your site.

Whether you’re just getting started, or have plenty of experience putting new pages together, a heat map can be an incredibly useful and cost effective metric going forward. Here at Regex SEO, we implement heat maps for a variety of websites, and it helps us design fresh, interesting content and layouts that drive conversions. It’s important to remember that heat maps are just one part of the web design process, but don’t worry. We’ll be talking about different tricks and tools that make web design and SEO tick in our SEO Toolbox blogs!

Interested in learning more about what makes a good website? Or looking for a professional web design team to build your next website? Give us a call and set up a meeting to talk about your project!



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