Firefox Heatmap Study Reveals A Web Developer’s Best Friend and Worst Enemy

By on July 2, 2010

In preparation for the upcoming launch of Firefox 4, the Mozilla Labs team has undertaken an extensive and detailed heatmap study of their main browser window.

Nearly 10,000 test pilots participated in the study, 9,667 users to be exact. Every single mouse click and action taken within the browser was monitored over the course of 5 days. Mozilla has published a dynamic graphical representation of the heatmap study here.

Several trends are very clear to see after viewing the usage data. Two elements leap out that get more action than the scrollbar!

Your Worst Enemy

93.1% of participants used the back button, clicking it 66.7 times on average over the course of 5 days.

The technical term for this action is referred to as a website’s bounce rate, which occurs when a visitor decides not to click anything on the site and leaves entirely. Time spent on site is also something you should monitor and hope to increase over time.

Today, it is critical to engage a visitor and capture their attention. We do this by making effective use of graphic and design cues, headings and short, consumable pieces of information.

There are several other things you can do to get started dealing with your worst enemy, the back button. I’ve previously written some tips for reducing bounce rate and increasing website usability that you should check out.

Your Best Friend

95.6% of participants used the location bar, clicking it 430.1 times on average over the course of 5 days.

That is a huge amount of activity! A website should be optimized for both direct navigation and search navigation to increase website traffic.

Direct navigation does not often get the credit it deserves. It is not easily monitored, but when studied it has proven to contribute a much higher percentage of traffic than one would expect. Additionally, visitors who directly type domain names are extremely targeted.

I believe analytics software will soon place a larger emphasis on direct navigation. More attention should be given to branding and domain names while developing a website. They should be memorable, easy to pronounce and easy to type.

The location bar now doubles as a search bar in all major browsers, so visitors will come indirectly from search navigation. Your site should be as optimized as possible (without going overboard) to make the search experience better for these visitors.

One of the simplest and most effective forms of SEO is to make sure important keywords and phrases are included within titles, headings and content. For more tips read my article on common WordPress SEO mistakes.

I hope you get along nicely with your new acquaintances.

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About Mark Fulton

Mark is the Founder of DotSauce Magazine and a full time web developer, domain investor, SEO and online marketing professional residing in North Carolina, USA. Visit MarkFulton.com for information on freelance website development, SEO and consultation services.