Understanding Heat Maps


Heat maps are a popular way to present eye-tracking results but they can easily be misunderstood. For best results, always compare heat maps with opacity maps, gaze maps, and areas of interest to understand the bigger picture.


Heat maps show areas of visual attention during the first few seconds of viewing an image.

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Heat maps use colours to show different levels of visual attention.

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Example: Storefront windows

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This heat map analysis shows that visual attention is captured evenly across a few key areas: the left-hand window, the in-store poster, and the right-hand window. This is a well-balanced design that captures customer attention with content that will help to drive traffic into the store.


Example: Merchandising display

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This heat map analysis shows that visual attention is captured mainly by the high-contrast content on the central video screen, ie: the strong white text on a red background. By comparison, the low-contrast content on the right-hand video screen fails to capture as much visual attention.


Example: Supermarket shelf

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This heat map analysis shows that visual attention is generally quite fragmented with only a few high-contrast packaging designs breaking through the visual noise.


Example: Product packaging

This heat map analysis shows that visual attention is mainly captured by the left-hand packaging design with its high-contrast colours, oversized lettering, and clever use of white space.