Heat maps are a powerful visual tool for tracking user behavior on your website or app and understanding how visitors interact with pages and page elements.
When you want to find out things like where you’re losing people’s attention or where you should focus visitor engagement, you can use a scroll map. Scroll maps quickly collect data on how visitors scroll through your website, so you can spot UX improvements, make changes, and ultimately increase conversions.
What is a scroll map?
A scroll map is a type of website heat map that visually shows how far users scroll down a page. Scroll maps can be collected on desktop, mobile, and tablet and color is used to represent the most and least viewed parts of a page, from hot (popular) to cold (unpopular).
Scroll maps aren’t just about color: percentages are given to let you know how many users ventured further down the page. An average fold score is also calculated so you can easily visualize the part of the page most visitors see before they start scrolling.
Scroll maps vs. heat maps
A scroll map (left) and click heat map (right) of the same landing page
Scroll maps generate heat zones of your website or app pages from top to bottom, so they look more like a vertical rainbow instead of depicting the ‘confetti’ patterns typical of other types of heat maps like click or move maps.
5 ways to use scroll maps
You can be as creative as you like when it comes to spotting data patterns and UX optimization opportunities. To help you out, here are five of the most common ways to use scroll maps.
1. Find out where you’re losing visitor attention
Your scroll map will show you how far down the page users reach (the percentage data will help, too): the colder the color, the fewer people will have seen that section of your page.
If your goal is to get users to scroll further (for example, you have a long landing page and want to make sure they see all of the information on it), scroll map data will help you think practically about how you can tweak the design or copy to make that behavior more likely.
2. Spot false bottoms
Sometimes, your visitors don’t realize there’s more content lower down the page. This is known as a ‘false bottom’, and it could be caused by white space, line breaks, or blocks that confuse users. Using a scroll map, you can ‘depth test’ your pages to check for false bottoms.
A quick case study: a scroll heat map on Hotjar’s careers page showed a sharp change in color (from green to blue) toward the bottom of the page. Only 20% of users made it to the end, meaning the 5/5 Glassdoor rating (valuable social proof) was missed by 4 out of 5 visitors. If they want more people to see that element, they need to move it higher up the page!
3. Discover if users see what’s above the fold
The part of a website known as ‘above the fold’ is the bit that the largest majority of people will see upon landing—the ‘fold’ is simply the cut-off point at the bottom of a user’s screen before they need to scroll.
A scroll map automatically calculates the average fold on your page, for both desktop and mobile users (note: these will be very different!). By looking at scroll map average fold data, you can place important elements above the fold in a way that works across devices, to focus user engagement as soon as visitors land on the page.
4. Figure out if users can find what they need
You’d be forgiven for assuming that the goal of optimizing a page using a scroll map is to get as many people as possible to scroll all the way to the bottom. But you’d be wrong. In some cases, users scroll because they can’t find what they need.
Case in point: UK-based digital agency Epiphany improved their client’s e-commerce site by adding filters to category pages after scroll map data showed users having to scroll too much to find what they needed.
Sometimes, with design, less really is more.
5. Learn if your page offers a good cross-device experience
Users might not behave the same way on desktop and mobile. If you’re optimizing a responsive website (one that re-sizes the same page to each device), a scroll heat map will show you where users stop scrolling on mobile and desktop, so you can design a cross-device experience that works for all your users.
In general, mobile-optimized pages tend to be shorter, but don’t blindly follow best practices: collect your own scroll map data and find out how your visitors are behaving.
This data from a mobile scroll map shows only 50.9% of users (fourth column) scroll beyond 3,276 pixels (second column). that’s valuable info!
Scroll data is there to help you design pixel-perfect user experiences; you can refer to the data to find exactly where you need a CTA to capture users’ attention on desktop and mobile.
Or you can spot the problems with your layout, where people may assume there’s nothing else below, while you could have important elements there.
PS. A useful trick: combine scroll map data with move map data. If a move map shows there’s a lot of attention and movement in a section further down the page, despite a smaller percentage of people who see it, move it up! This means people find it useful, and a lot of them don’t even have a chance to see it.