Web analytics is like looking outside after rain – you see wet asphalt but not how drops fall. To see what visitors are actually looking and clicking at you need more special tools. There are several services that provide heat maps statistics but they mostly cost money.
ClickHeat is open source and free solution you can just host yourself.
What it does
ClickHeat gathers data about clicks visitors make on site and uses it to generate heat map of where those clicks were made in specific time period.
ClickHeat requires hosting with PHP but doesn’t use a database – data is simply logged to plain text files. I had bunch of problems with file permissions and names on my FTP account. Everything was easy to solve (if you go for it – your skills are advanced enough to use hosting, right?) but be ready to spend some time getting it running.
After install it generates piece of code to put in pages for tracking. In case of WordPress that would be best included in footer.php of theme. You also need to setup correct layout (centered, liquid, etc) in settings.
I used exactly same code and got clicks from all pages mixed together. To get specific heat maps for different pages you need to use code with different group name for them.
Heat map helps determine and fix two types of problems:
- visitors click something they should not;
- visitors don’t click something they should.
For example after recent header redesign I noticed that RSS area gets less clicks. Adding underline for get updates text made it look more like a link and number of clicks increased.
I don’t have opposite example but on other sites I often click page elements that looked like something designed to be clicked – with no result. If owners used heat map they would see those areas draw clicks and made changes or made useful link out of it.
Somewhat hard to make it work (read it – techie toy) but free, works well and provides valuable information. Programmers can take it even further and take open source heat map library (ClickHeat is based on) to use in own GPL-compatible apps.