A heatmap is a way of visualizing data using color coding to represent different values in a two-dimensional image. As to be expected there are many different types of heatmaps that are used in a range of disciplines from physical sciences to entertainment to web optimization. Although they may all use the term 'heat map' to describe the data-image they produce, actually there are many different types of visualization techniques.
Here are some of the most interesting heat maps that I've encountered:
A Tsunami Height Heat Map
This heat map uses color to show the maximum tsunami height within the first 24 hours after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. (Courtesy of NOAA/PMEL/Center for Tsunami Research)
Facebook vs Twitter Global Coverage Heat Map
These heat maps highlight the differences between these two social media giants. Twitter coverage is far more concentrated in European and Eastern US pockets while Facebook connections are shown spanning the continents and oceans.
Eye Tracking Heat Map: Women vs Men
Think Eye Tracking showed the following picture to thirty men and thirty women for five seconds while they were being eye tracked. Much to some people's surprise, the heat map showing what women most looked at is on the left, while the men's results is on the right.
Clicktale's Heat Mapping Technology Explained
The above heat map examples all work because they provide us with an overall spacial view of data that would otherwise be difficult to absorb at a single sitting and even more difficult to create actionable improvements from if the data were presented as numbers in a chart.
Taking this into the world of web optimization and conversion, we can now understand how customer experience heat mapping technology is revolutionizing the way marketing professionals understand their web visitors' in-page behavior. The video below shows the different types of heat maps that Clicktale offers as part of its Digital Customer Experience tracking software.