12 Heatmap Findings: Your Roadmap to Conversions

Heatmap Featured

I’m about to give you a hard reality check.

There are millions of websites on the Internet, and all of their designers have the goal to increase traffic and maximize conversions.

What could you possibly do to make yours stand apart?

The answer: appeal to visitors’ subconscious minds. Subconscious behaviors are often the most powerful (and dependable) because:

  1. We’re all hardwired pretty much the same way, so subconscious behaviors tend to be universal.
  2. People aren’t aware of their subconscious tendencies and therefore can’t control them.

If you can appeal to the subconscious, you can influence the conscious mind and drive those coveted conversions.

The unfortunate thing about subconscious behaviors is that we have no idea that we’re doing them, so they’re really hard to analyze.

Correction: they WERE really hard to analyze, before we had heatmaps.

Heatmaps are a really great tool for analyzing subconscious conduct. Because they track vision behaviors (which are often subconscious), heatmaps can lead to visitor insights you simply can’t find using other methods. Gathering this psychological information can help you make strategic layout decisions to increase your conversion rate.

Here are some of the lessons that heatmaps have taught us, and how you can apply them to web design and SEO best practices.

Lessons on Web Design

1. Put the content that your visitors care about at the top

Users will scroll down your page, but this study found that users spend 80% of their time looking at information above the fold and only 20% below it.

This is because of a limited attention span. Users want quick, direct information without having to do any extra work (like scroll or read more words). The further down the page they go, the less attention they have in the content. That’s why the content above the fold is the most valuable for attracting and maintaining your viewer’s attention.

However, viewing time increases significantly again at the very bottom of your page.

This is basic psychology at work. The serial position effect states that we’re most likely to pay attention and remember the beginning and end of sequential information.

This breaks down into two sub-effects: the primacy effect and the recency effect. The primacy effect suggests that people remember beginning information because it goes into their long-term memory, while the recency effect states that information at the end is stored in short-term memory.

Also, a separate study revealed that people spend more time on the left half of a webpage than the right – about 69 percent total.

So what does this mean for your webpage? Place the content your visitors care about above the fold and to the left so they don’t have to scroll or search to find it. If you can’t fit everything at the top, make sure your design layout is intuitive for scrolling. Also, consider putting a CTA or restating relevant content at the end to appeal to the recency effect and drive conversions.

2. Appeal to the F-pattern


F Pattern Heatmap

F – Patterns – Image Credit: Amit Agarwal Flickr CC

This study  found that users often consume web pages in an F-pattern, which consists of the following three components:

  1. Users start reading horizontally across the top of the content area, forming the top bar of the “F.”
  2. Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across again horizontally, though usually covering less content than the first movement. This forms the second bar of the “F.”
  3. Finally, users scan down the left-hand side of the content, forming the stem of the “F.”

The F-pattern finding has several implications for web designers and marketers. Remember that users will almost never read your text word-for-word, especially if they’re searching for a specific piece of information, so you need to be strategic about how and where you make your points.

Shane Jones

Shane Jones

Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX
Shane Jones is the Director of Earned Media at WebpageFX, a Pennsylvania marketing agency. Additionally, Shane is a Reporter at Econsultancy US, where he covers Conversion Marketing and UX Design. Shane loves making friends and wants you to connect with him on Twitter, Google+ or if you reach out via his blog.
Shane Jones

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12 thoughts on “12 Heatmap Findings: Your Roadmap to Conversions

    1. Haha, I understand completely the point you’re making Jason, and I appreciate you calling me out on that :) I bummed that that is what you’re coming away with. But maybe it’s not as black and white as that, but what I’m trying to convey is that trends exist for a reason and we would be foolish if we ignored them!

  1. Brilliant article, especially point 5 in the first section. It links all the way back to production of product imagery and demonstrates how so many different teams within an organisation must work together for the perfect conversion strategy. Photographers/Graphic Design -> Web Designers -> E-commerce teams -> SEO’s (the list goes on) all part of the same process!

    The info under ‘Users select a site in less than 5 seconds’ was interesting also.

    1. Thanks Lloyd!! I’m really honored to hear you enjoyed it! It’s amazing how conversion relies on so many people coming together to create the perfect entity. Another reason its so important to collaborate and build synergies between your departments!

  2. Hi Shane,

    Informative post! The F pattern is an interesting thing that I read in the article. Maybe I should optimize and tweak the design of my blog keeping that pattern in mind.

    The SEO lessons also revealed some startling facts. Like- snippet being the most crucial factors that visitors consider. I was not aware of this fact and have been giving title and url more importance! Guess I should invest more time creating catchy and effective snippets too!

    I found the link to this post on Kingged.


    1. Hey Julio! Thanks for the input – you’re definitely correct in the sense that the F-pattern isn’t quite as strong of a presence these days, instead its more about “Chunking”…however I think the F-pattern still applies as it’s still the “core” shape below the chunking. I still see it in some studies that do take into consideration personal and universal. That F-pattern just isn’t as prominent.

  3. Well done article …your statement about images and information a bit doubtful. Generalization from a dating site study is problematic. But I agree that some people do prefer images other textual information.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Floris! There were many studies mentioned across my post. The research is there, and goes beyond generalization – i just have limited space to cover all of the data from these studies in a blog post! But thanks for reading and for the feedback!