Five hot new visual metrics make analytics for humans

E-consultancy analyst Linus Gregoriadis last week solicited suggestions on a
sexier name
for “web analytics”. But five new Web 2.0 services currently brewing in beta are threatening to take the whole online marketing measuring practice into a more sexy paradigm entirely.

All these new products ask is that you place some Javascript in your header – but they promise to serve up juicy thermal imaging, in-page indicators or movable feasts that produce easy-to-use visual metrics for left-brain webmasters.

So what are these new tools? Let’s take a look…


1. Crazy Egg –  free links on heat


CrazyEgg is a website tracking system that lets you track visitors’ every click, then see the report as a visual heatmap overlaid on top of your pride and joy – the hotter an area, the more clicks it’s received (better do something about those cold links).

The service will also give you an overlay containing metrics like number of clicks and percentage of total clicks, so you can see just where users are going. Developer Hiten Shah has previously said: “We capture the exact position of each click, as well as clicks on form fields, buttons and images. This way we can provide a very accurate heatmap of the click stream.”

CrazyEgg has been hatching since back in the winter and is still getting heavy promo on the 9rules Network, but I’m looking forward to playing with it soon. Best of all, it’s free.


2. ClickDensity – British summer heatwave


ClickDensity offers all that and more, adding to CrazyEgg’s heatmap a click map to identify why people are clicking where they shouldn’t be and the kind of tabular data more familiar to analytics die-hards. The click map shows crosshairs that mark the spots everyone has clicked (“why is everyone clicking on that white space over there?”).

Homegrown by BoxUK of London and Cardiff, ClickDensity is already out to market thanks to a tentative recent launch, is available at a number of different price points including a beta-ish 30-day trial and is currently in use by the Science Museum and Thomson holidays.


3. Ajax Link Tracker – cheap and cheerful

Ajax Link Tracker

If you’re comfortable with installing software on your own server, Glenn Jones’ homemade script also sits on your pages, monitoring user clicks.

The tracker makes a big play of displaying click popularity when you hover over links on your web page itself, but the information looks more tooltip than top-notch and  – it’s limited to percentage figures and comes with none of the snazzy visual indicators offered by products with more development backing.


4. AdGreed – cryptic thermal experiment

For a no-frills, freebie heatmap, AdGreed appears to want your attention. But the website gives little information about its wares and the product looks like an abandoned experiment. With CrazyEgg around the corner, the effort looks worthy but doomed.


5. ClickTale – put your visitors in the movies


ClickTale promises the sexiest visual analytics experience of all, wrapping together click tracking and even mouse movement data in a personal movie report of each user’s on-site journey.

Who would have thought that web managers could extend the kind of screen capture presentations available on individual desktops to all the users of their site?

Currently accepting applications to join its beta testing phase, ClickTale lets you watch as visitors move their pointer around, hover whilst pondering a click and circle the cursor in frustration as they give up. Movies even lay down ClickDensity-like markers where click-happy visitors press their mouse button and admins can segment user movies via all kinds of funky variables.

As the site’s initial blurb states: “While web analytics provide aggregated user data, we focus on the atomic user behavior. By watching movies of browsing sessions, website owners gain a deeper understanding of visitor behavior; which leads to improved website usability, enhanced navigation, and increased overall website effectiveness.”


Going forward…

This new wave of web analysis software won’t replace existing tools, but it could augment existing user testing techniques and help you see immediately how users are interacting with pages.

Heatmaps are an incredibly lucid way to understand what’s going on and, if nothing else, can make you feel like Predator. User-experience movies won’t tell you how many visitors came from Affiliate A or B – but they will help your boss understand that nobody’s clicking his special button.

Try mixing up your own analytics arsenal by trialling one of the above services. For two of the developers involved, the offerings are their sole product; sooner or later, one of them is going to get bought by a major vendor (think Urchin and Google Analytics, Writely and Google).

In a couple of years, heatmap monitoring may well be de rigeur in traffic monitoring strategies.