Warsaw, Poland-based Heatmaps today announced the launch of its new platform to capture touch and gestures as users navigate an app. The company is trying to help give developers a lens into how people navigate their apps, not just the buttons they press or actions they take, but an aggregated view of where users pay the most attention, and which aspects of an app are ignored. The company was in private beta for 10 months with over 1,000 developers on board, and over 100 apps using it including Orbitz.
CEO Cyprian Ciećkiewicz and his team originally set out to develop their own iPhone apps only to become frustrated by the lack of good usability testing tools, and decided to build one. “We wanted to get more information about how people use our apps, so we wanted to get heat maps, but because there weren’t any heat maps, we thought we’d build it,” Ciećkiewicz said in an interview. “Once we did, we released it in our own applications and discovered we had some visibility problems, users wanted to interact with our application differently that what we thought when we were designing it. We thought it was a cool tool to give to people, so we built it out as a product.”
Upon signing up developers download the SDK and embed a few lines of code into their iOS applications and indicate which part of the application they want to know more about. From there, when a developer releases an app, either in beta through services like TestFlight or officially on the Apple App Store, the service starts collecting data about how a user interacts with the app when using it and sends the data to Heatmaps’ backend. The data is then aggregated by the company to show colored heat maps on top of an app’s user interface, in addition to gesture and device statistics. So for example an app developer could see that users are only interacting with two our of four menu options, or don’t understand that they can swipe to move between features.
“When your target users use your applications they just naturally touch different things in your app. If they have trouble touching buttons, they’ll touch around them or if they have suggestions for buttons to do things like move back, they’ll swipe it. We discover all those interactions,” Ciećkiewicz said. “That benefits our clients by helping them discover that the controls they’ve provided, or the interface they’ve created, is insufficient for users.”
The company is targeting both enterprise and indie developers, and developers can get heat maps for free up to 10,000 data samples, or pay $95 to get access to up to 100,000 data samples, with more robust pro plans available for enterprise users. The premium model will also enable enterprises to do things like A/B testing so developers can launch an app with two interfaces to determine which one is more effective.
Prior to Heatmaps, most developers had access to app analytic tools like Flurry and Localytics, which also offer free and easy integration, and target enterprise markets. Both companies provide a great deal of demographic and advertising-related data in addition to which buttons receive the most clicks. However, Heatmaps’ technology could provide an additional layer of information, specifically when it comes to where a user touches, and what exact gestures they make to access parts of the application.
The company will be looking to launch its service for Android developers in the near future. It also anticipates a lot of activity in the U.S., where it soon plans to open up another office. With both the user interface and user experience being the make or break for mobile apps, the service will likely be a welcome addition for both indie and enterprise developers alike. But with several other app analytics tools on the market, it’s only a matter of time before heat map-style usability testing catches on with competitors.