With multi-billion dollar businesses relying entirely on the web, Web Analytics has become an important and useful subject. The measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data can be used understanding user behaviour and optimizing web usage. It is not just a tool for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research, and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a web site.

There are various methodologies employed like web server log file analysis, click analytics, customer lifecycle analysis, page tagging, and even cookies. Common web analytics services such as Google Analytics represent only the general statistics like how many visits you had, and what was the flow from page to page, link to link.

Heat Maps give you much more detail about user behaviour on the page. It has the potential to show which are places most clicked, hovered, stopped, and paid attention to. Sweden-based MouseStats is a startup that combines HeatMaps for every mouse move, click and scroll, to provide a detailed analysis of your website at a glance.

There are seven services that MouseStats provides:

  • Mouse Move Heatmaps: Most of the times (88% as per MouseStats), the eye follows the mouse pointer. The Mouse Move Heatmap is a simple heatmap that records the smallest mouse movements. This can be used to find out what distracts the users and what attracts their attention.
  • AreaStats: This is a very interesting feature in which you can draw a square around an area and get stats about that area. You can have multiple areas on your page and then compare real-time charts. This works not only for pictures, but any part of the page.
  • Click Heatmaps: This is the simplest analytics most analytics tools provide, and just tracks which links/buttons users click most frequently.
  • Attention Map: This maps shows which part of the page grabs the most attention. You can then place your important content, or ads, in that area.
  • Scroll Heatmaps: A unique feature that tells you how visitors scroll long pages on your website. This helps you analyze even those areas on the page that are not visible.
  • Custom Heatmaps: You can create new heatmaps based on custom attributes to analyze the behavior of certain groups of visitors.
  • Visitor Playbacks: This is like a recording to visitor behaviour on your pages in real-time. Spooky I know, but can come in handy for analyzing how do visitors use your site. The playbacks work even if your site is down, or even if you have changed the structure of the site completely.

We tried this on our own Pluggd.in, and here is a Click HeatMap and a Mouse Map for the PI homepage:

    

Analyzing the first heat map above clearly shows what we thought as a highly attractive area on the post snippet–the image image thumbnail–is not almost not clicked at all. We’ll perhaps have to arrange it better. Also, the ads on the right are not only not clicked as in the first heatmap, but even the mouse pointer seldom reaches that area. [Note to self: Talk to Ashish and see if we need to rearrange stuff].

Here is another snapshot from the Pluggd.in project on MouseStats that shows visitor playbacks including mouse movements, in addition to details about time of visit, browser and OS, and screen resolution, etc. In the actual project panel page, the play button would play a video (that cannot be embedded here), that is as good as watching over the shoulder of a visitor on the site.

One problem that I faced with the product when we tried it on Pluggd.in was that after the free pageview limit was exhausted in, like 15 minutes, MouseStats started sending out emails saying “Project disabled due to overuse: Pluggd.in” every time someone visited the site. While it still gave me an idea of users visiting us in real time, it became spammy in a very short time. And of course I stopped getting bugged by emails once we removed that script from our site.

The pricing plans are simple, and based on the number of page views per month, and the page views are not limited to one domain! Meaning, the same plan can be shared across multiple properties if you have. There is also a trial plan wherein you can create two projects for up to 100 pageviews.

The visitors also have the option of opting out of MouseStats if they do not want to be tracked. The tracking is enabled/disabled by means of a cookie, and MouseStats provides a pretty page to opt out or come back in.

Another interesting (claimed) feature of the product is heatmap-sharing. You can share your heatmaps with anyone you like with a temporary access url. They can directly access it without even have to sign in. This did not work for us during our small trial, but I hope it was because it was not a paid membership.

Though there are a few products like ClickTale, MouseFlow, and ClickHeat that provide similar functionality, MouseStats provides much more, and at a lower price. Haet Maps are in general a useful analytics concept. You can use these heat maps to answer questions like where is the best place to put advertisements, what distracts visitors, which picture on your page attracts more attention, what link should be moved, what part of the site should be focused upon, do the users find the path quickly and intuitively. These can be used to increase conversion rates and maximize ROI. If you have a web-based product, do give MouseStats a spin and sound off in the comments.