If you are anything like me, you immediately get nervous when you hear the phrase eye tracking. However, understanding why this testing is essential to any web developer takes the uncertainty out of the equation. Through this blog, I hope to inform you about the eye tracking process and the information obtained from these tests. This will provide a complete overview of the research that happens through eye tracking and why it is crucial to understand as web developers.
With the digital age upon us, the first place anyone goes when they are interested in a company or product is their website. Google’s research found that it only takes 50 milliseconds for a visitor to your site to decide whether they like it. This is a pivotal moment in your website’s ecommerce success. Most companies are well aware of this fact and are always looking for ways to improve brand perception to users who browse their websites. How we perceive a website can persuade us to buy a product or move on. This is why various testing like eye tracking exists to understand what is happening off-screen in the user’s mind.
Eye tracking has become a very popular way for companies to gather information about their clientele. Eye tracking is what it sounds like, the observation and recording of eye behavior and movement. It is used so companies can identify where users are looking on their websites and what catches people’s attention. Behaviors can be uncovered by looking at where the user’s eyes go and what initiates action from a user.
This tracking looks at pupil movement and dilation to identify what a user is looking at. A fixation point, where a user’s gaze stops, is highly beneficial to researchers. Points of fixation indicate where a user has stayed on a point long enough to process what they have seen. These are collected by comparing the position of light reflected in the eye and the position of the pupil.
Researchers using eye tracking also look for “saccades.” These are the fixation between multiple points. Visualizing these saccades illustrates the paths that users take to collect a comprehensive view of where the user is looking and in what order. To record this, researchers collect coordinates multiple times a second, making a data set and exposing users’ behaviors.
With eye tracking, researchers gain an ordered list of fixations. They can see where and what the user sees. It also can highlight what the user did not see. Maybe something that the web developers thought was standing out is actually pushed aside to other aspects of the website. These insights highlight both the seen and the unseen of users, which is huge in making changes to better suit the user’s needs.
“Eye Tracking Thermal” by Travelin’ Librarian is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/?ref=openverse.
Eye tracking gives insights into the time it takes for users to get to a fixation. This uncovers the ease and usability of the site. If an important element takes long for eyes to fix on, it may indicate that it needs revamping to make it stand out more.
Similarly, the fixation length can be seen through eye tracking, describing how engaging certain elements may be. It can also show the number of fixations per element, indicating what might be distracting or contradictory.
Eye tracking goes beyond secondary research to authenticate the user’s interest. It is not based on memory and is unconscious, with users often not remembering their eye movements. However, eye tracking does not tell researchers why a person is fixated on something. This is why interviewing, and other qualitative research methods should never be ignored, as they hold valuable information that can help web developers create a site that promotes credibility.
Through the years of eye tracking tests, the most common pattern from users is the F pattern. This pattern describes users’ most common eye movements starting in the upper left corner across the entire row. This would include your navigation bar, and it is the best chance at getting your users’ attention as it is the first place seen. Eye movements then travel down on the left-hand side of the screen, moving slightly to the right to read the first few lines of copy, then continue traveling down the left column.
Due to the speed at which users make decisions on websites and brand credibility, it is essential to place your important content within the guidelines of the F pattern.
Testing With Five Users
When hearing all this information, it can seem daunting to research users’ perceptions of your website; however, the most important truth is that you receive zero insights with zero tests. With one test, user insights increase by a third. From testing a second user, you can understand the differences and overlaps between eye movements. The third user will confirm things that overlap with either user or both users. Each time you observe a new user after your third, you gain less and less information. After testing user number five, virtually no information is found.
This is excellent news for students like us. To understand users’ perceptions of our websites, we only need to observe five users to understand any usability problems that can be resolved.
“Eye-Tracking Demonstration” by City University Interaction Lab is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.
To attract customers and create confidence, the designs of websites should be clear, simple, and attractive to the perception of users. It should point users to important features and avoid anything distracting. Through initial reactions, we as developers, lay the groundwork for frequent visits and greater brand trust.
By exhausting qualitative research, sticking to the rules of the F-Pattern, and observing five users, your website is bound to be user-oriented. By keeping users at the forefront of designs, brand trust will skyrocket.