Eye tracking isn’t for every UX question, but for those it answers, it does so in a way no other method can. A great user experience is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s an expectation from customers. Failing to impress, or at least be understood, at the point of first interaction with your product or service means almost certain and immediate abandonment from a customer, so, in this current landscape of prolific UX optimization, how can you give yours the edge?
A quick summary for those new to eye tracking: Eye tracking is the process of accurately measuring where people look, and in most cases, recording it so it can be viewed later. You can learn more about it here.
Defining what you want to find out about the user’s experience will help you see which testing method makes the most sense. Of course, the depth and breadth of you research will depend on the resources available to you, but there are some things to consider that will apply to most situations - whether you’re shaping a product from scratch or revitalizing a poor performing one.
UX designer, and educator at Stockholm’s Nackademin, Andreas Olsson, says it’s important to understand that “eye tracking is a tool in the toolbox and it’s not always needed for everything, that’s not to say it’s not a good tool, it’s just important not to overcomplicate your tests.”
He stresses the importance of using the right tools during the right phase of the design process. “If you’re testing if people are simply able to locate a button and fill out a form on your website, a simple time-based success or failure test might be sufficient. If you want to know how easily they find the button and how easy the form is to understand, then eye tracking might be ideal,” he says.
Eye tracking gives you a perspective that no other method can deliver; and that’s the one that belongs to the user. By using an eye tracking based UX testing tool, you can get unique insights into the way in which people engage with your product or design. This insight can help you at various points in the design process and can in many cases enhance the information you get from other test methods.
Henrik Fagerberg, a senior UX designer at user experience agency inUse, says he was pleasantly surprised when he started using eye tracking at the type of information it added to his existing tests “I could see that they [test participants] were actually looking at the thing they were trying to find but still couldn’t see it, or didn’t realize it was there, and I wouldn’t have known that without eye tracking.”
Eye tracking test sessions can be recorded and used for retrospective think-aloud interviews to get more information on the user’s experience and thought processes. This information can easily be shown to other stakeholders to increase their empathy with users and develop a greater understanding of designers’ recommendations.
Mr Fagerberg believes “The results are very tangible, for example with the purchase flow, you want to see how long people spend on each step and how easily they find the process, eye tracking allows you to see how they run through the process with their eyes rather than just looking at the click data and mouse movements, eye tracking is much more telling about their mental processes.”
The insights gleaned from eye tracking offer useful detail on user behavior, uncovering things like:
The beauty of eye tracking for user experience testing is that it’s incredibly easy to get started with. In most cases you simply attach the eye tracker to your laptop via the USB port, make sure it’s running with your viewing/recording software and away you go.
While there’s a wide range of eye tracking products out there for running your tests, some general considerations you should have when planning are:
Most importantly enjoy the process! Unfortunately, there’s still a perception out there that eye tracking is complicated and expensive, but that’s simply not the case anymore, and those who fail to consider it in their user testing toolbox are missing out on valuable user insights.