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1/05/2007
  Free Eyetracking / Heat Maps
Eye tracking allows you to visualize exactly where a visitor to your page is looking. Heat Maps show you which areas on the page generate the most attention. Greg Yardley proposes something like heat map weighted attention measures to replace the page view, which is becoming less accurate and less useful.

Real eye-tracking studies use special headsets to track where the user looks. However, you can do this virtually - by tracking the users mouse clicks. There's open source software to that will build a heat map for you, based on where users click.

It leverages Apache's mod_imap module so the server logs the click location that javascript passes up, and it can record any server header variable, like the referer.

I've run this on some of my pages - it only works on pages that are not completely fluid layouts (unlike GotAds, eg. where the page resizes to the whole width of the brower), but it is cool.

Two advantages to doing this on your own server side: it's faster, and you don't send your valuable referer data to anyone else.

Also, the javascript code has some issues recording Firefox clicks / referrers properly, but it's still very useful and can be set up in under 2 hours. The code that makes the heat map images requires Ruby (which ain't a problem for Yardley).

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