Discover where your users focus

What Are Heatmaps? 101 Guide

Learn what heatmaps are, how they work, best practices for analysis, and how they can help you optimize your site and app experiences for higher conversions.

Table of Contents

                      What is a heatmap

                      A heatmap is a data visualization tool that uses color coding to represent the concentration of data points across an interface. They enable you to literally “see” where the most activity happens on a page.

                      Red and orange areas on a heatmap usually represent “hot” zones—places with a high concentration of clicks, taps, scrolling, mouse movements, eye focus, and other user interactions.

                      Conversely, blue and green zones are “cooler” areas with fewer interactions. This color gradient gives you an at-a-glance view of engagement levels on different page parts.

                      Businesses commonly use heatmaps to understand how users interact with their site pages or app sections.

                      You can pinpoint the design elements, content, or products that attract attention or drive actions by seeing where visitors click or look the most. Understanding these patterns enables you to optimize layouts and user flows to improve conversion rates.

                      Heatmaps can also show you where people interact less with your page. Dead zones can reveal design issues that need fixing or opportunities for adding more value for visitors.

                      How do heatmaps work?

                      Heatmaps rely on background tracking analytics to detect interaction signals. As people use your site or app, these behaviors are invisibly monitored.

                      You can then aggregate visitor tracking data to reveal interaction patterns. High user activity results in large data samples that can help you pinpoint consistent hot spots with lots of clicks or higher focus.

                      Most heatmapping software analyzes tracking data across thousands or even millions of data points to generate color-coding visualizations. Algorithms determine the concentration of clicks, average scroll depths, the most popular content, and more.

                      Complex data is transformed into an intuitive, colorful map that’s easier to read and share. Creating heatmaps reveals actionable opportunities that are often hidden in plain sight.

                      The different types of heatmaps

                      There are several major categories of heatmaps, each tracking distinct user behaviors.


                      This advanced (often pricer) heatmap uses eye-tracking tools and AI to reveal where people look first and focus their attention on a page.

                      Eye-tracking capabilities are usually incorporated into specialized equipment or software. Aggregated visual data highlights page areas that attract the most glances.

                      Click and tap heatmaps

                      These are the most common heatmaps and work by tracking all clicks and taps across a site or app.

                      They indicate the specific buttons, links, navigation menus, and other elements visitors actively click and engage with.

                      Scroll heatmaps

                      Scroll heatmaps visualize how far down a page visitors scroll before leaving. Longer scroll depths typically show higher engagement, while short scrolls might mean your content isn’t compelling readers to continue.

                      Move heatmaps

                      Move heatmaps register visitors’ cursor movements across a page—even if they don’t click anywhere. Red hot zones show where people hovered their mouse the longest when viewing a page.

                      Confetti reports

                      Confetti reports are an alternative to standard heatmaps. Instead of color-coding zones by engagement level, they use different-sized dots and circles.

                      Small dots represent a few clicks or other actions, while large multi-colored circles map out hot spots with repeated interactions.

                      What are heatmaps used for?

                      Heatmaps have several applications for gathering insights into user and visitor behavior.

                      Some of the most popular use cases include:

                      • Website optimization: Knowing where people click and focus their attention on your website enables your designers to make certain elements more prominent and rework low-traction areas to increase conversion rates.
                      • Landing page testing: Website heatmapping is useful for A/B and multivariate testing. Visual interaction data shows which page layouts, headlines, imagery, and call to action (CTAs) better engage and convert users.
                      • Mobile app testing: Tracking gestures and taps on mobile app interfaces can help you uncover navigation issues or new feature opportunities for more enhanced user flows.
                      • Ad campaign analysis: Hot and cold spots quickly show which graphic elements, copy blocks, and CTAs resonate best with each target audience to improve ad results.
                      • User research: Heatmaps visually bring user tests to life, giving you a better understanding of online consumer browsing behavior and intent.

                      How to read a heatmap

                      Decoding heatmaps takes some practice, but this step-by-step approach can help you get up to speed quickly.

                      1. Seek out the red and orange hot spots. These areas have the highest concentration of tracked user engagement signals.
                      1. Scan for patterns linking these hot zones. Are people clicking on particular buttons? Do their eyes focus on key images or headings? Use these patterns to uncover which content is more effective.
                      1. Check for blue cold zones with little activity—these could flag potential issues. Make a note of menu links with no clicks, overlooked empty white space, or areas with minimal cursor movements. Cold zones offer design and optimization opportunities.
                      1. Toggle between heatmaps that track different actions—like clicking, scrolling, and eye focus—to get more context. Comparing your findings from each lens can reveal more profound insights.
                      1. Filter your data by various visitor segments. Look for variations in hot and cold spots among first-time vs. returning visitors, mobile vs. desktop users, or campaign sources.
                      1. Blend heatmap observations with other core analytics, such as conversion data. See if the hot spots align with your most successful landing pages and ads driving business KPIs.

                      Why is accurate heatmap analysis so critical?

                      Accurate heatmap analysis is crucial for trustworthy findings that lead to solid decisions.

                      Flawed or subjective interpretations can send you down the wrong path by:

                      • Overvaluing less important hotspots that don’t actually correlate with conversions.
                      • Underemphasizing other engagement signals that are more aligned to conversion goals.
                      • Misreading emotional responses and intent behind visitor interactions.

                      For example, though a hot spot usually indicates enthusiastic engagement, it might also mean that users struggle to find what they need. Heat zones on side banners may look impressive but might actually result in few conversions.

                      Many heatmap tools continuously improve their analytics to correlate hot spots to business outcomes, helping improve interpretations. Advanced tools also offer supporting metrics to add context around conversion rates, scroll depth, time on page, follow-on behaviors, and more.

                      With accurate heatmap analysis, you can confidently:

                      • Identify the best-performing design and content elements and double down on things that work well.
                      • Detect genuine issues that turn visitors away and fix what’s broken.

                      How to use heatmaps effectively

                      Follow these best practices to gain the most value from your heatmaps.

                      Define goals and objectives

                      First, define your business outcomes and the questions you want to answer with your heatmap.

                      Connecting your goals—like boosting conversions or reducing drop-offs—to your heatmap findings helps increase their impact.

                      Choose the right heatmapping tool

                      With so many heatmapping tools available, it's essential to pick one that aligns with your goals, industry, and technical needs. Consider ease of set-up and use, tracking accuracy, filtering options, and integration capabilities.

                      Collect accurate and relevant data

                      Carefully configure your heatmap tool to track relevant actions and filter out noise. Focus your heatmaps on pages and visitor segments that directly tie to your analysis to gather the clearest signals. Structure your data collection to ensure sufficient sample sizes at vital conversion steps.

                      Contextualize findings

                      Examine supporting analytics to go beyond what your heatmap highlights. Combine your heatmap findings with metrics like page views, time on site, and conversion data to better evaluate your high-traffic areas. Gather insights from segmented heatmaps, too—context sets the stage for better interpretation.

                      Create a plan and act on insights

                      The best heatmap analyses drive direct action. Quick wins might include prominently featuring hot zone content, while longer-term plans may involve redesigning low-performing pages or A/B testing new layouts. Let your data guide iterative optimizations.

                      The benefits of using heatmaps

                      Applying heatmaps across your digital experiences can bring significant advantages.

                      Uncovering key insights

                      Heatmaps instantly reveal which content does—and doesn’t—engage visitors. Uncovering these patterns is invaluable for optimizing page designs, app workflows, ad targeting, and product selection to maximize your results.

                      Improving communication between teams

                      Heatmaps create a shared visual language around visitor behavior. This means designers, marketers, product developers, and other stakeholders can use heatmap evidence to align more quickly on opportunities and priorities—making interpretation issues a thing of the past.

                      Making data understandable

                      Large datasets can be abstract and unclear for less data-savvy team members without visual representation. Heatmaps instantly crystalize your data’s story through vivid and actionable visualizations, enabling more employees to participate in the insight process.

                      Common challenges of using heatmaps

                      Although heatmaps provide precious visitor insights, overlooking the following challenges can undermine their accuracy and usefulness.

                      Data accuracy

                      Like any analytics tool, poor heatmap data will lead to poor conclusions. Improperly configured tracking or buggy technology can fail to capture accurate activity across all visitors. Missing data leaves blindspots that could result in bad decisions.


                      Even perfectly accurate heatmaps can be misread. For example, heavy traffic on a landing page banner may suggest it works well when, in reality, the chaotic layout drives visitors away. Heatmap patterns need thoughtful interpretation grounded in other metrics.

                      Contextual understanding

                      Bright red or dark blue doesn’t mean anything without context for similar pages or your overall conversion goals. Understanding visitor intent and journey stage helps you avoid misplaced assumptions.

                      Sampling bias

                      Infrequently-visited site areas and low-traffic pages can distort heatmaps by inaccurately portraying atypical visitor behavior as the norm. Gauge your heatmap findings against your analytics for central or high-traffic pages—where your target audience will likely be—to avoid putting too much weight on outlier cases.

                      Amplitude and heatmaps: The perfect pair

                      Heatmaps offer invaluable visual insights into visitor behavior, but advanced digital analytics platforms can make your explorations even more powerful.

                      Amplitude offers a full suite of analytics to provide context to your heatmap findings—from core metrics around conversions and engagement rates to custom segmentation and cohort analysis.

                      Pairing Amplitude’s comprehensive analytics and optimization tools with heatmap visualizations enables you to move confidently from insights to results-driven actions.

                      Ready to combine the power of heatmaps with deeper analytics? Get started with Amplitude today.