Eye Tracking 101

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Eye tracking is a user research technique that measures the point of gaze and the motion of the eyes of our users. With this tool, we are able to analyze behavior patterns and design more natural, appealing and intuitive interfaces. 

Why use EyeTracking?

The goal of an eye tracking studio is to understand which elements grab our users’ attention, the way they process the content of our website, how and why they make decisions and what they feel while browsing through our website. As we can see in the example below, we can detect and analyze what our users are looking at and better understand their behavior and clics in our website.

Eye Tracking is usually combined with other research techniques like: interviews, usability tests, customer journey mapping, retrospective think aloud, etc. With this combination, we will reach a deeper knowledge and more reliable insights about our users.

What is an eye tracker?

To conduct an eye tracking user study, we need a specific measurement device, an eye tracker. These devices can track gaze, attention and focus of users while they perform a task or browse on a certain site. 

How an eye tracker works by Tobii (https://www.tobii.com/group/about/this-is-eye-tracking/)
How an eye tracker works by Tobii (https://www.tobii.com/group/about/this-is-eye-tracking/)

There are currently two types of eye trackers: mobile and fixed devices. Generally speaking, fixed devices are used for desktop UX testing. The computer in which the test is conducted integrates the eye tracking sensors and is calibrated for each user or participant. For mobile testing, we generally use mobile eye trackers. The sensors are integrated in a pair of glasses that the user must wear during the study.

When to use Eye Tracking?

This technique has numerous applications. It can support several areas of research such as: psychological studies, product design (automotion, packaging, ATMs, etc.) web usability and advertising, among others.

For example, we can analyze the way in with users consume and react to a TV ad. This will help us understand what messages are not being seen, which areas are more visible, what are the gaze patterns, etc. Here is a real case study where we analyzed how 30 users watched Toyota’s TV ad. After seeing the data from the heat map, could we ensure that all users have actually seen the price of the car?

If we focus on web usability and user experience, this technique helps us to optimize design and interaction on a certain site based on a deep knowledge of consumer behaviour and preferences. 

With eye tracking, we are able to:

  • Understand behaviour: we can analyze what are the main focus points and the most frequent gaze paths. we can also spot which content goes unnoticed. This way, we can determine gaze patterns like Nielsen’s Layer Cake Scanning. This pattern explains how users scan websites and only read/see headlines, subheadlines and some copy blocks deliberately. We will then take into account these patterns when we design our website. We will be able to make sure that important content is read and that it is adequate and appealing for our final users. 
Layer Cake Scanning by Nielsen Norman Group (https://www.nngroup.com/articles/layer-cake-pattern-scanning/)
Layer Cake Scanning by Nielsen Norman Group (https://www.nngroup.com/articles/layer-cake-pattern-scanning/)
  • Understand interaction and find problems: usability studies that apply eye tracking help us better understand the why of many behaviours and interactions on our site. it is common to spot a problem on an interface but not know what the exact cause is. For example, when a user does not click on a certain button, it can be due to several reasons: user has not seen the button, the copy is unclear/confusing, the button does not look like a button, etc. With eye tracking, we can clear out all these doubts and add detailed qualitative information to our study. This way, we will be able to correct usability problems and optimize navigation. 
  • Understand emotions: when our interface depends on visual components, it is interesting to know what effect they cause on our users. Eye Tracking allows us to analyze the different reactions towards these types of sites in a more precise and detailed manner.

Types of analysis

We can obtain both qualitative and quantitative data from an eye-tracking study. They will all help us understand the behaviour of our users and help us make design decisions that will optimize user experience and conversion rates. More info on the difference between qualitative and quantitative data here.

Types of analysis:

  • Gaze-Plot
Gaze Plot from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of the masterpiece Guernica by Picasso
Gaze Plot from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of the masterpiece Guernica by Picasso
  • Cluster
Cluster map from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of The last Dinner by DaVinci
Cluster map from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of The last Dinner by DaVinci
  • Heat Map
Heat map from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of SEAT’s TV spot.
Heat map from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of SEAT’s TV spot.
  • Bee Swarm
Bee Swarm from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of the masterpiece David by Michelangelo.
Bee Swarm from an eye tracking study with 30 users by TeaCup Lab of the masterpiece David by Michelangelo.

Conclusion

Eye tracking is a popular user research technique among UX Researchers. It offers detailed information and data about our users behaviours and preferences. It also helps us get to the bottom of some usability problems. Therefore, this technique helps us optimize and correct the main usability and design problems of our web or app.

We are User Research experts. We test with real users to help you create usable products and great user experiences.

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