Eyeball tracking methods have been developed for over 100 years. They help researchers from various fields to discover problems that depend on the patterns of looking at objects. Eye movements indicate human preferences, factors and stimuli influencing decisions.
The process of looking at static objects consists of alternating saccade movements (jumping over a given space in search of interesting elements) and fixation (focusing attention on a specific object and assimilating information). This way, looking after looking, each user builds an image, meaning and context in their head of what they come into contact with.
What are the advantages of eyetracking in UX?
UX researchers are specifically interested in the natural pattern of the user’s eye movement across the interface. Many usability problems consist in incorrectly matching the design or placement of elements to the subconscious expectations of the user. Eyetracking is the only method in the User Experience directory that eliminates the need to build assumptions about observations based on user behavior. Instead, specific information is received for analysis:
- Places in the interface that the user focuses on most often and ignored zones,
- Time of eyesight fixation on each object,
- The paths through which the eye jumps from fixation to fixation.
The analysis of this data indicates the order of learning about the interface, the elements that shape the User Experience the most, and the potential impact of the size, arrangement or colour of the elements on attracting attention, or vice versa.
How are eyetracking research conduct?
In the stationary scenario, the study requires space and equipment organization. You need at least two computer sets with large screens, speakers and microphones, a backup medium and a hardware tracker – such as the Tobii Pro Spectrum. The equipment is equipped with delicate electronics and requires precise configuration, which in extreme cases takes up to two days.
The actual test begins after a series of settings tests. It follows a previously prepared scenario, with the participation of a list of tasks for the user. It is important that the researcher and participant positions are kept separate to avoid distraction and distortion of the results.
The study is limited to several processes carried out by the tracker:
- Illuminating the participant’s eyes with infrared light to reflect the observed image,
- Recording eye movements by a tracking camera,
- Assignment of readings to areas on the interface via software.
The test results are presented against the UI in one of two forms:
- Scanning paths (qualitative data) – the order of eye movements while familiarizing yourself with the interface. In the form of static visualization (gaze plot) or video recording/real-time track overlay (gaze replay)
- Hot spot map (quantitative data) – visually resembles a heat map and indicates the degree of attention of the group of subjects in each area of the interface.
Currently, eyetracking can be performed remotely – online. This can be done with software coupled with a standard webcam (e.g. xLabs, GazePointer, openEyes, ITU Gaze Tracker).
Thanks to it, it is possible to examine large groups of users faster, though with lower accuracy, through their own computers, and sometimes also smartphones.
Eye tracking allows you to see the interface from the user’s perspective and check the effectiveness of the digital product design in terms of visibility, for example, navigation elements; the length or usefulness of the content, as well as the ease of finding the desired content on subpages.
In this way, it is impossible to find out how important specific elements were for the participant of the study or why he paid attention to them.
However, in combination with other research, eye tracking gives a more complete picture of User Experience. Comparing content scanning patterns by different participants and analysing the eye-tracking paths of the interface allows you to customize the appearance and placement of elements to make it easier for users to navigate the interface and shorten the way to the goal.