Eye tracking refers to methods used to register eye movements of test persons. Eye tracking is used to research the user experience (UX). It provides information about the processing of visual information and the usability of a website or user software.
Various methods are available for investigating the usability of websites and software. Frequently, test persons are asked about their experiences after processing a task. However, the UX can be determined much more reliably by eye tracking. Because the recording by eye tracking proves beyond doubt whether a button was actually discovered by the test person. Especially with a landing page, the first seconds of the call are crucial. In this short orientation phase, eye trackers show whether users immediately recognize the essential functions and the individual relevance of a page for the information they are looking for. The sooner this is the case, the higher the conversion as a rule.
Tools and software for eye tracking
The study of eye movements when looking at objects was originally only used in the medical field. While eye tracking was then exclusively an invasive mechanical method that worked with contact lenses, today there are numerous tools for eye tracking in the form of hardware and software. One example is eyeglasses for test subjects as wearable eye trackers, offered for example by companies such as Tobii.
Mobile eye trackers are attached to the subjects’ heads. In addition, there are external eye trackers that record eye movements through devices on the screen and store them digitally. A camera detects the eye and registers its movements. In this way, insights can be gained into which elements of a website are fixed and which are completely overlooked. Eye movements can be broken down into
- Fixations (points that are fixed by the eyes, i.e. looked at closely),
- saccades (rapid movements of the eyes)
- and regressions (the return of the gaze to a previously detected point).
Fixations are periods of more than 0.3 seconds during which the eye remains in one place.
Seminars and workshops on eye tracking are very popular. The company Tobii is an international leader in the market for eye trackers, software and seminars. The seminars serve, for example, to familiarize companies with the handling of eye trackers. They also teach skills in the use of eye tracking software so that studies can also be carried out in-house.
Based on eye tracking research, so-called heat maps have developed and are used internationally to check the usability of websites. Colored markings highlight certain areas of websites that are viewed comparatively frequently. There are also gazeplots and opicity maps.
- Heat maps mark frequently and long viewed elements in red, other areas in gradations from green to yellow.
- An opacity map is the inverse (i.e. the negative) of a heat map. It points out the areas that are not viewed.
- Gazeplots make the complete gaze path clear and provide information about the order of viewing.
These maps show so-called Areas of Interest (AOIs): How many AOIs are there? What is the total duration of fixations? At what time are the areas viewed by the user? Of particular interest for conversion is the measure of “time to first taxation,” which expresses how long it takes for a certain area to be viewed for the first time. The data of several test persons form representative average values.
Conversion optimization with eye tracking
In online marketing, companies focus on placing the elements of applications in a user-friendly way. Eye tracking reveals weak points of a website that have a negative impact on conversion. Today, studies on eye tracking have developed important methods for the design of successful websites, which are applied internationally. For increasing conversion, attractiveness and usability, especially A/B tests are very useful, which compare the UX on two different versions of a website.
Important for a good conversion are these three points:
- The first impression is positive.
- The user perceives crucial information in time.
- He does not overlook essential content.
Eyetracking research can also dispel myths and prejudices. For example, studies have shown that large fonts or highlighted words such as “free” or “free of charge” hardly attract attention. What is certain, however, is that videos and images usually interest users. Eye tracking also reveals that users read from left to right: the left-hand area of a website is viewed by test persons with above-average frequency.
Usability tests for software and websites
Designers and programmers work on the look and functionality of apps and websites using various methods. The basic principle here is that everything is based on the requirements of the people who work with the object. Today, digital means usability above all. Eye tracking analyses are therefore also interesting for software ergonomics. The user experience (UX) when working with a certain software provides information about problems when searching for information and when using programs. Usability tests provide answers to the following questions:
- Which elements does the user register?
- Which elements does he overlook?
- In what order are the individual areas viewed?
- How intensively are they viewed?
The answers to these questions provide information about whether the page or program structure serves to quickly find the information sought. Investigations into gaze behavior as part of the UX reveal which parts of a website or program need to be reworked or repositioned if, for example, important functions are not perceived or are perceived only very late.
UX analysis through eye tracking and biometric data
The gaze behavior of users naturally depends first and foremost on the individual usage objective. It is therefore important to analyze the UX based on data obtained with eye trackers against this background. Valuable information results above all from the combination of eye tracking and other methods for UX research. Thus, statements from usability tests are checked against objective eye tracker data. Both research variants allow the quantitative and qualitative examination of results. It is already becoming apparent that eye tracking will in future be a component of comprehensive methods that process and analyze numerous biometric data. These include, for example, respiratory activity, heart rate and EEG data.
Eye tracking is a modern technology that helps companies better understand their customers. New methods of studying user behavior open up new opportunities to tailor digitally based applications to people’s needs. As part of neuromarketing, eye tracking methods not only analyze visual perceptions, but also provide information about the structure of decision-making processes. Today, the study of UX is put on a completely new footing by combining eye tracking and biometric data.
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