All About Heat Maps: What, When, and Why

DashboardFox - Heat Maps and Tree Maps

Have you ever heard of heat maps?

We’re not talking about the geographical type of heat map here or even heat maps that are usually used for online website tracking. We’re talking about heat maps as a business intelligence solution for visualizing data.

Interested? Heat maps are cheap, easy to use, and have been used for many years across many industries.

In this guide, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about heat maps and when you should consider using one for your business intelligence plans.

What is a Heat Map?

A heat map is an incredibly useful as well as powerful data analysis tool. It is essentially a visualization technique that shows multiple rows and columns of data in a way that is understood immediately. This is done by assigning various sizes and colors to cells in each individual row. A color slider is typically placed at the bottom or in the margin of a heat map in order to help the user understand the high and low outliers in the rows and columns represented by varying colors.

Let’s break heat maps down into a BI-friendly scenario. Let’s say you are managing a particular sales force of 50 representatives. On a data template table, there are 50 rows and each row represents one of your representatives. The table also features some columns hat display month to date dollars sold, month to date orders taken by each representative, and other factors.

If one were to represent this data on a traditional bar chart, the visual result would be extremely cluttered and so difficult to analysis that it would be useless. Through the use of a heat map, one can assign a cell to each representative, month to date dollars sold to cell width, and month to date orders taken by each representative to cell color or hue. The resulting improved visual will let you see which representative has sold the most product in the last month in a way that a bar chart simply could not.

Color is incredibly useful and can immediately show you which representatives have made the most or the least sales. This is improved upon by the included color slider, which will visually increase the vibrancy of the colors on the high and low end of the heat map spectrum.

Different Types of Heat Maps

Heat maps can vary significantly, especially when it comes to what they are tracking. They are usually used for website tracking or business intelligence. In the context of business intelligence, common heat maps include:

  • Point-Based Value Heat Maps. These will pull numeric values from business data and plot them as points of activity.
  • Area Based Value Heat Maps. This heat map shows activity in different specified areas that are color-coded by countries, states, and other geographical locations.
  • Traditional Heat Maps. This type of heat map will look more like an overview of a tornado path on a map because the data it describes is show as graduated color schemes, usually red and blue, that show different areas of intensity.

When and Why You Should Use Heat Maps

On a basic level in the context of business intelligence, a heat map can be used to visualize very complex data such as competitor performance, market responses, investment fluctuations, and any other business data (internal or external) that needs to be visually presented.

Heat maps simply a method for visualizing data, and they don’t provide much insight unless the viewer knows what data is being visualized. Remember, heat maps aren’t “data” but rather, they present data. They are the vehicle, a way of color-coding data numbers for the business’ benefit. A heat map can represent just about anything, making them extremely versatile.

If you’re a business intelligence specialist, you may be considering using heat maps to help other team members or business leads understand data that has been analyzed and organized. When it comes down to it, heat maps are massively beneficial to any industry, niche, data type, etc. Heat maps can work for just about any business that collects and needs to be able to translate data for the business intelligence purpose of making changes, improving operations, making financial choices, sales projections, marketing efforts, you name it.

Some of the industries that have been using heat maps for many, many years include:

  • Tech and software enterprises
  • Real estate professionals
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Government organizations
  • Healthcare and medical fields
  • Financial institutions
  • Insurance companies
  • Retail and industrial sales industries
  • Service organizations

Heat maps don’t only benefit massive enterprises and large businesses. Local businesses, small business, startups– everyone can benefit from using heat maps as a business intelligence solution.

Does DashboardFox Have A Heat Map Visualization?

We do! One major difference between DashboardFox and many of the leading BI vendors you are familiar with is that DashboardFox has a much smaller list of visualizations built-in. While some may see that as a negative, we actually limit the visualizations to a core set of charts and graphs that the overwhelming number of business users understand.

While we agree that spider and polar charts are important, most business users have no clue how to understand those unless you explain them in great detail.

We also find from a self-service BI perspective, the more selection you have, the more difficult it is to make a choice.

DashboardFox is designed to be lean, easy, and for business users and that’s why many organizations who initially selected a Power BI or Tableau, switch to DashboardFox as a more cost-effective and simpler solution for their team.

Below is an example of a Heat Map in DashboardFox and what you can’t see from the image is this chart can be combined with drill down to see more details behind the data and also with filters and views on a dashboard so that users can apply parameters to see the exact slice of data they need.

DashboardFox Heat Map/ Tree Map

Contact Us

Schedule a live demo and see us build a heat map in person, but more importantly, let’s use that time to discuss your requirements and see how DashboardFox can be a great fit, both from a price and functionality perspective.

Have you ever used heat map charts for your business intelligence or data analytics needs? Tell us what you think about this useful tool below.

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