A: Since all heat maps start from data, some level of data aptitude is necessary to produce a heat map. You can use Microsoft Excel, Adobe Analytics, business intelligence (BI) tools, or any data aggregation solution as your starting point. Next, you will use an analytics tool to review the data. Then, the visualization aspect of it can either come from that same tool, or you could design something yourself. You could even do it in PowerPoint if you wanted, just by layering together different shapes to convey color and data points.
When it comes to reading a heat map, the best maps require very little explanation. If the person putting the heat map together has chosen the right application of color and included a legend, a user should be able to draw the relationship that they need to draw and then quickly start to get value out of the heat map beyond that..