New to heatmaps? Mobile app heatmaps aggregate lots of data to make it easy for the human eye to identify a large amount of data. Learn how heatmaps can help you create a better user experience.
August 12, 2022 by Jonas Kurzweg
In-app analytics solutions like UXCam often boast about having heatmaps for mobile apps in their lineup of tools.
But what are mobile app heatmaps, why are they such a great tool to have, and how can you start using them?
Mobile app heatmaps aggregate data to make it easy for the human eye to identify patterns.
Users today have a large variety of options for their mobile apps.
Google Play alone has nearly 5 million apps. The Apple App Store has more than 4.3 million.
In such a competitive market, you need to know your audience and how they use your app. 88% of online users are less likely to return to your site or app if they have had a negative experience.
Touch heatmaps are one of the best features for getting inside your users’ heads and understanding their behavior on your app.
Mobile app heatmaps are a visual overlay in an array of colors to represent user interactions.
Heatmaps represent the average user activity, which allows you to see which elements get the most attention.
The human eye can comprehend these colors effortlessly and much quicker than people can analyze a set of numbers. Heatmaps aggregate large numbers of data from users and compile it in a way that allows us to quickly and accurately conclude from the results.
For this reason, heatmaps are best used in large groups of data to show us extremes — either where the most or the least amount of activity is.
You're likely already leveraging heatmaps on your website with Hotjar, so if you understand the benefits, you may want to read about why UXCam is the alternative for mobile apps. Otherwise, scroll down to find out more.
First, anyone who worked on both a web and mobile product knows about the general differences between mobile and website navigation.
Websites are placed on bigger screens and have a different input method than mobile apps (clicks vs. gestures). This makes developing a UX system for mobile apps a unique challenge.
Aside from that, the technology is different. On websites, the HTML code of your website serves as a baseline, then the captured usage data generates the heatmaps.
On mobile apps, the process is more complex since UXCam needs to account for different types of development platforms (Native, React Native, IONIC, etc.).
So if you want to use heatmap tracking on your app, look for a mobile-first heatmap solution that was designed with screen gestures in mind.
UXCam is the market leader for mobile app heatmaps.
It supports native iOS, Android, ReactNative, PhoneGap/Cordova, Xamarin, and Flutter.
Heatmaps are just one of the many features that UXCam offers:
UXCam integrates easily and quickly into any app. Where other analysis apps may affect your performance, UXCam is lightweight, with no performance penalty.
It also integrates with other programs you may use, such as Adobe Analytics, Firebase Crashlytics, and more.
There’s a specific heatmap that can help with every hypothesis. If you think a static graphic on your app is getting mistaken for a button, check unresponsive gestures.
Logins dropping after download? Rage taps might be able to tell you what’s blocking users from setting up their accounts. Here we cover the different types of heatmaps that can make it easier for you to understand user behavior. All of the following types of heatmaps are features of UXCam.
Imagine this: You use an app and try to tap on an element, but nothing happens. You try to tap on it a few times, you get frustrated and leave the app.
UXCam calls this tapping behavior a “Rage Tap.”
A rage tap represents rapid-fire taps in frustration. It's defined by at least 3 taps within a certain radius on the screen and at most 300ms between consecutive taps.
It would show you when users are frustrated with a certain element in your app. With UXCam, you can generate heatmaps that show your rage tap elements to help you decrease user frustration.
Unresponsive gestures are defined as an element that is touched, but it’s not an interactive element. Therefore, the gesture doesn’t result in any responses.
Heatmaps of unresponsive gestures can be generated to show you elements that get attention when they shouldn’t.
Human beings form a fast first impression. With first-touch heatmaps, you can see where users intuitively tap on when they first see a screen.
It’s insightful to know how users leave your app. Last touch heatmaps allow you to see the leaving touch of each screen.
When you develop a mobile app, it needs to be responsive to a wide variety of devices and device sizes. If you look at heatmaps for specific devices only, you can identify issues that are caused by or occur only on specific mobile devices.
Users might use your app in landscape or portrait mode, and there might be challenges with those different experiences. You can adjust the heatmap accordingly and see how the users’ experience differs when they flip the device.
So we have covered what heatmaps are, but why do you want them? Specifically, how can heatmaps improve the engagement and retention of your app?
A visually appealing and easy-to-use app will bring in customers and keep them coming back.
With heatmaps, you can see what gets the most attention from users and what gets overlooked. In doing so, you gain a better idea of what users want from your app.
Let’s take a closer look at a scenario from UXCam.
A company that uses UXCam — let’s call them Photos Inc. — uses heatmaps to understand user behavior. The result is the following: Based on the results, we can see that the login page of Photo Inc. is okay but perhaps not ideal for its users. Heatmaps show us that most users log in with a Facebook account instead of an email address.
To increase user login and improve the user experience, Photo Inc. has to move its Facebook login button to the top of the list of options.
By doing this, the Facebook sign-in becomes more prominent and moves the email sign-in to second on the list. The users' first impression is related to design in 94% of the cases.
Just that little change could spiral into major improvements for Photo Inc. What improvements could you make to your app?
You may also be interested in: The Complete Guide to Mobile App Heatmaps (free ebook)
A call to action (CTA for short) is only useful if your readers see it and tap on it. If no one sees your CTA because it’s too far down the page or it’s in an odd place, then you will see a drop in user onboarding.
If users are attempting to click on an area that isn’t linked, you may consider putting a CTA in a high-traffic area that would otherwise be wasted.
Mobile heatmaps are an essential tool to identify the problems that your users are facing. See where your users are getting hung up in the process and where they abandon it.
Does your app need to include more directions for the users? Maybe there’s something that could be simpler? Perhaps you are asking for too much too soon.
Whatever the problem, it should be taken care of right away. By meeting the needs of your users, you also encourage them to use your app more. Mobile app heatmaps are a fantastic tool that can save you time, money, and even a headache or two!
Heatmaps enable us to take in a lot of information in a little amount of time. But there are some traps that can falsify the heatmap analysis. Here are four things to consider when reading a heatmap.
Set yourself a goal before looking at your heatmap. What do you want to achieve with this analysis?
Picking a hypothesis before looking at the data helps you approach the analysis more objectively and systematically. Without a goal, you’ll waste time with an aimless analysis that can even lead to misinterpretations.
This is one of the most important points to keep in mind before you can start reading a heatmap. To see if users are spending more time on specific screens, check the average engagement per screen.
More data is always better to get a holistic overview of users. The number of visitors you should wait for before you start your analysis depends on the traffic of your app.
As a rule of thumb, at least 2,000 users should have visited the respective screen to make a reliable statement about their usage behavior.
Otherwise, the analysis could be based on a few individual users that are not representative. If features are adapted to these few users, the change might even be a disadvantage.
The ambiguity of interpreting a heatmap leads to the fact that the simplest explanation might be the right one, but it can also be the opposite.
Since you weren’t sitting next to your users while they were using your app, you can never be sure what exactly caused their activity. But this problem can also be mitigated a bit: Segment data and consider the circumstances of their use. Common distinctions are listed here:
This will give an intimate insight into the usage habits of your users, from which you can take the next steps to improve your mobile app. Here, too, the effort of differentiation will pay off for everyone involved.
To find out if the changes you’ve made in your mobile app are achieving what you had in mind, you can compare the heatmaps before and after your change. This can be very informative and will help you assess the value of your change.
Change does not end after implementation. It has to be analyzed constantly and improved further to achieve the most satisfactory result possible.
Session recordings act best with heatmaps to provide more context to the analyst. Session replay gives an insight into how users are interacting and navigating around your mobile app acting as a guide for you to make decisions on design, features, or prioritization.
If you’re using UXCam you can find session recordings together with heatmaps. Just go to the Heatmaps tab and click on the screen you would like to analyze.
Using session recordings along with heatmaps:
Improve the usability of your app
Get a more personal impression of how people interact with your app
Helps to reduce bounce rate
Looking for more information on session replay? Check out our dedicated article on the pros and cons.
Funnels allow us to analyze the success of each step towards a conversion. Maybe there are bottlenecks that you’re unaware of that are blocking completion.
In UXCam you can create funnels, like a sign-up funnel or a check-out funnel, to identify if there are any high drop rates on a specific screen to understand user behavior.
Once you have funnels set up, and you can see a high drop rate on a specific page, you can go to the heatmap of that page and analyze where those users are getting frustrated.
Screen flow is similar to funnels, but gives a broader overview. Understand the bigger picture of your app in a single view.
Screen flow is great for identifying bottlenecks and seeing different user paths throughout the journey - conversions, drop-offs, entry, and exits.
Just like with funnels, when you notice some interesting data, you can take note of the page and look at the heatmaps for that page for more insights.
Mobile app heatmaps are specifically designed to work on iOS or Android mobile apps. They show which elements of your app get the most engagement.
An SDK of analytics solutions like UXCam captures every micro-interaction on your app. This means that it auto-saves all gestures on their respective screens.
This includes simple gestures such as taps and double taps, but also sophisticated ones, for example, long press, zoom, or trail gestures.
This data then gets aggregated to generate the heatmaps. Screenshots of each screen serve to give the visual context to the app behavior.
To use heatmaps for mobile apps, you must first install the UXCam SDK. The SDK captures usage data, which then gets used to generate heatmaps for your app.
You should segment your app heatmaps based on specific gestures. This will help you to perform a detailed analysis.
UX, marketing & product nerd. Coffee enthusiast. Working at UXCam. Leave me comments if you have any!