Very quick post mainly as I haven’t posted anything for a while and I promised myself I would, so thought I would introduce a project we are currently working on for a client or rather in this case the theory and point you in the right direction code wise.
Most readers will be familiar with these but if your not basically a click heat map measures the number of clicks occurring on specific parts of a page (normally links) and then creates a pretty density match the more clicks the brighter the colour (normally they look like heat maps hence the name) they are used to see areas of interest for users and where users are leaving. These maps are really quite useful if you know how to use them and you can easily get started using open source software like Clickheat and there are also paid for services out there.
Temporal Click Density maps
So I’m sure the title (time based click maps) has given away what our current project is all about, you see clickmaps give a very two dimensional view of click density by introducing time, we get a much better picture of what areas are being clicked on and some motivation behind them. Unfortunately introducing time into web analytics is notoriously difficult perhaps more so then it would appear on first glance.
The first problem is accurately recording time, either you rely on the server or the clients browser to record the time, both come with problems and neither can be considered accurate the solution in this case is simply to probe in time periods in our case we have chosen a near logarithmic scale for determining time periods. It would be unhelpful if 99% of all our clicks were in our first time period because we chose to long a period and likewise we wish to keep processing and data storage overheads down so polling data every second is unrealistic.
In focus or idle?
Some Temporal Click Density Map goodies
ok so now for some totally unhelpful yet oddly cool tidbits we have discoverd while running temporal clickmaps on a couple of our sites. Remember now this is just initial findings on a couple of sites.
Greater the density the earlier the click – Afraid so from our initial finding the click area with the greatest number of clicks also had the clicks in a short period of time relative to their arrival. The positive side is a good call to action is likely to be clicked on quickly.
Adverts are clicked late – This was a little surprising I had always assumed advert clicks occurred quite early on but adverts tended to be clicked later, is this showing a subconscious desire to complete the primary call to action? Well possibly and (warning blatant plug ahead) its certainly the theory we have put forward for why newmedias.co.uk Your CAPTCHA advert wordpress plugin works (end of plug)
Further down the page the later – yep your hocked but the lower down the page the longer it takes to get clicked, there is an exception to this and that is pre known call to actions a good example being long sales pages where we saw a split between quick clicks vs long clicks. So some people realising the style of page shot to the bottom while others waited.
Interesting and this is when this sort of mapping comes into its own, those who waded through the long sales page and clicked to purchase were statistically less likely to complete the transaction
Stumblers really do hate you – a couple of years ago I posted about the fact that the most clicked area on a page during a stumble was the top left hand side and theorised that this increase was due to stumblers missing the stumble button. With the new system we can see the different density levels for the top left for stumblers vs non and with a noticable difference between the two the theory still stands to make things worse… nearly all those clicks are in the first time period meaning you really don’t have much chance to impress.
So what do you need to get temporal data going on your site, well clickheat map system is a good start I recommend labsmedia clickheat php class as a starting point. Then you need to measure time and focus we use an actionscript system but I would be interested in seeing or hearing other ideas. Indeed if people want to play with our code I maywell clean it up and throw it up on newmedias.co.uk