Heat mapping, in the context of generating user feedback, is very similar to a survey where the respondent is asked to rank a number of options in order of preference. However, heat mapping allows the survey to collect intensity, as well as order, of preference.
This is best illustrated by an example. Perhaps I’m thinking about starting an ice cream company and I want to figure out what customers in my neighborhood prefer to eat. Quite often, the startup would create a survey like this, and ask customers to rank in order of preference, from 1-5. Here’s what I would say.
- Cookie Dough
After handing out the survey, we would know what order people put their preferences in.
Heat mapping asks the respondent to allocate a certain number of points (often 100, but it doesn’t matter), between their preferences. Here’s what mine would look like.
5 Cooke Dough
Notice the difference? It is quite clear in the heat map that I have a VERY strong preference for chocolate.
I recently used this technique in my work at Google on Primer – https://www.yourprimer.com/. We were trying to figure out which topic areas would be of the most interest to our users and only wanted to launch with a handful. We came up with a list of about 10-15 topics and then asked users to vote on the topics they cared about. They got about 5 votes that they could spend as they wished: all five on one topic to all five on different topics.
When dealing with limited amounts of feedback, it is often just as important to get the intensity of the preference as well as the order.