Predictive vs Descriptive - Which heatmap is right for your website analysis?

Predictive vs Descriptive - Which heatmap is right for your website analysis?

Heat maps provide a powerful insight into what happens when someone engages with your website or content. Using and understanding heatmaps can provide you with insight on how your content is performing, allowing you to make data-driven decisions to increase interaction and ROI.  

Understand the different types of heatmaps that are out there, and how they can be used within your design production process to optimize the performance of your website.

What are Heat Maps?

Heatmaps are a way of visualizing data. The most common heatmap most people have probably seen is on a weather report. This is used to represent heat and shows red for hot regions and blue for cool. 

Weather Heatmap

But the focus here is not on the weather but rather on how heatmaps can help creative teams get a better understanding of how their content performs. 

What is a heatmap

What are the Differences between Descriptive and Predictive Attention Heat Maps?

The key difference between descriptive and predictive attention heatmaps is the source of data.  

Descriptive Heat Maps

Descriptive heatmaps use data that is gathered through actual physical actions whereas predictive heatmaps are based on data that has been predicted through the use of a computer algorithm. 


You can split descriptive attention heatmaps into two; Attention heatmaps showing eye-tracking data and attention heatmaps showing mouse-movement data. 

Tobii Pro produced descriptive eye-tracking attention heatmaps that are based on eye-tracking experiments where a camera monitors eye movement to see where human attention goes for any piece of content. These experiments tend to be quite expensive and can take a long time to run but the results are high quality and, if you have enough test subjects, the accuracy is high. 

Whereas descriptive mouse-tracking heatmaps like the ones produced by Hotjar are based on tracking user traffic on websites. By recording mouse movements and clicks a heatmap can be created to show how users are using websites. Using these products requires your existing websites to have high traffic already to justify making decisions. These tools are well suited if your sole aim is to track user journeys on websites post-launch. 

Predictive Heat Maps

Predictive attention heatmaps utilize artificial intelligence to predict where a typical audience would be likely to look when viewing your content.  

Dragonfly AI has developed an algorithm that can calculate where human attention goes in any given setting. Therefore you can instantly see whether a call-to-action, product image or even brand logo is attention-grabbing or not. This algorithm isn’t limited to just the digital world though, you can also analyze in-store displays, shelf designs, and even TV ads. 

Using Heat Maps to Inform Your Decisions

Each of the types of heatmaps mentioned earlier has its own merits, and a combination of the information you obtain can be used throughout your design processes. This next section will show you which heatmap is best suited for the design phase you are in. 

Using Heatmaps to inform decisions

Using Predictive Heat Maps

Predictive heatmaps validate decision-making prior to publishing in the initial design process. Instantly check the impact of in-store displays in drawing customer attention or optimize your UX design without negatively impacting traffic. Analyse product images against competitors’ on online retail platforms and in context for the most optimized creative. 

Predictive Heatmaps

Using Descriptive Eye-Tracking Heatmaps

Further validate your decisions for important, big-budget projects by using eye-tracking experiments as a mini-performance experiment to see how your content performs once contextual biases are introduced. 

Using Descriptive Mouse-Movement Heatmaps

Once you have iteratively improved your web design, go live and track actual customer journeys and user experiences using mouse-movement heatmaps to see how the context of content and the users’ own bias makes an impact. 

Increase ROI with Heat Map Analysis

Pre-testing at every stage of your creative production journey is critical when it comes to standing out from your competition.  

Traditional creative testing takes time and costs money. Having website heat map analysis in your toolbox will undoubtedly give you the upper hand within your design lifecycle. 

Interested in finding out more about how our predictive heatmap technology can help you optimize your content? Book a demo with us here


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