Eyetracking

Given my interest in the field of web design, eyetracking has always intrigued me. Although I have never personally done it, I like the idea of using eyetracking to adjust elements of your web design- where things fall on the page and how to make your most important elements stand out. Although it is a little outdated now, this Mashable article about Facebook pages was one of the first things that introduced me to eyetracking.

Since I don’t know a terrible amount on the subject, I found this article to be a good foundation for the rest of the reading. It explained a little bit more about how eyetracking studies are conducted, by observing infrared light sources. Although technologies are becoming more advanced, it sounds like the model of having users wear a headset or staying completely still might yield less than completely realistic results. I’m pretty sure all I would be thinking about in that situation is how I can possibly not move my head. Just me?

The Poynter Institute studies brought in some of the real meat to eyetracking. They looked at participants reading both online and print versions of newspapers. One of the older studies, from 2003-2004, seemed to confirm some of the previously held notions I had about good web design. It mentioned that users looked at the top left of the screen most frequently (usually where the logo is placed), the bottom of web pages received modest viewing, top level navigation attracted a lot of attention etc. I also found it interesting that in one of the later studies it mentioned that large differences in reading sequences for print vs online reading.

With web design, how can we use this information to our advantage to build more effective sites? In what cases would you perform eyetracking tests on your website?

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6 Responses to Eyetracking

  1. I think I would use eyetracking to charge more for ad revenue. If the top banner ad gets more views (it does) I can justify charging an arm and a leg for it, with more data than other people might have.

    • amandacbilly says:

      At Xomba, we used A/B testing to determine the most effective ad size and placement strategies. It was cheaper to do that than it was to set up an eyetracking study. We experimented with the many standard sizes ads come in, and we experimented with the layout of our content pages. The size/placement combinations that earned the most money became the foundation for the layout of those pages when we did a full redesign.

    • Emily Davis says:

      Agreed, that sounds like it would be the most common use.

  2. I agree with Chris on the ad revenue. I’d also use it for the most vital information I’m trying to get across, be it breaking news, top selling products, redesign, or whatever my main purpose for the website or ad is. I thought it was interesting (though logical when you think about it) that there are different entry points for print versus web information — which implies very different information decoding strategies and possible different purposes for reading in the different media.

  3. naseemspeaks says:

    If I was the marketing manager of a multinational company, I would definitely shell out money for eye tracking research at least once to better understand what people are looking at and in what order. It would allow the designers to move things around that weren’t getting enough eye traffic. That said, I think it’s probably too costly to use this technology each time the company makes a layout change. Thus, the free A/B testing that we read about earlier in class would be a better option for continuous research. A last resort option would be to have several random employees of the company look at the layout and see what attracts them first 🙂 Perhaps, not the most accurate way though!

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