The Basic Visual Test – Eye Tracking as a Useful Tool

usability-testing-eye-trackingAfter the redesign, the necessary next step is testing. Testing improves the site’s performance. Unfortunately, only a handful of digital agency Philippines conducts testing without realizing that there’s a very simple way of performing usability testing. Another unfortunate aspect: those who conduct testing, however, are doing it wrong; they don’t test the site with their users – not even representative users. The premise is designing around users’ needs, right?

For more than 15 years now, the users have seen dramatic changes in the web. Now, we’ve come to a point wherein if the user is not satisfied with how the website initially performs, the user will perceive it as useless and move on to the next accessible site. That user will never come back to the previous site, and that’s the sad truth. This can be avoided with usability testing. So, why the deliberate overlooking of even the most basic usability testing?

Arguments against usability testing

The website makes sense to me.

Even if a site makes sense to you (as the website designer), the same thing cannot be said for the users. Being non-technicals themselves, however, doesn’t make them less intelligent than you are. Let’s put it this way: we all have different experiences, lifestyles and viewpoints. As such, we cannot assume that the users will use the website in the same way as you. That’s a very dangerous assumption.

We are doing marketing research anyway.

Not because you are doing market research, you can skip the usability testing. Market research is all about determining how to attract customers into visiting the website. Usability testing is about making the website user-friendly and navigable once the user enters the site. The latter touches upon emotional responses although it is more about knowing how useful the site is for the user and not necessarily whether a user likes the site or not.

Usability is common sense.

For the most part, navigability is about practicality. That is, well-designed websites look very simple, so it should easy for the users. Regrettably, the hardest part is the simplest solution. Why don’t you try performing a simple usability test to the website? You will be amazed at how simple navigation may appear or perceived as complicated by the users. As such, what’s sensible for you is not always sensible for others.

Testing is expensive.

Thankfully, there are many choices of testing tools and tactics. At times, just a few rounds of testing with very few experts and representative users are more than enough. No one can underestimate the insights and inputs that these people can provide in making the site friendlier to the users.

Eye tracking

eye-tracking-usability-testingOne of the most used usability testing tools is eye tracking. Eye tracking involves monitoring where the users are looking. Eye tracking can be used for both design and content. It offers objective and convincing data regarding usability problems as well as user behaviors.

Further, eye tracking has several purposes such as determining:

  1. Where the users are looking
  2. How long they are looking
  3. How their focus changes from an item to another
  4. Which parts of the page they are missing
  5. How they are navigating through the entire page
  6. How the design elements are affecting their attention

Overall, the eye tracking strategy can reveal usability problems especially those that are related to design. As such, apart from knowing where the users are looking, it is also possible to generate additional insights regarding what they are doing on the page and why. Consider these issues:

– why a user had problems in performing a task and whether there are barriers in completing the task and whether there are variances in performing a task

– where users are expected to find specific elements or whether they notice the element at all or whether a particular element distracts the user negatively

– how the design guides the users in completing a task and which design elements are effective and which are ineffective

– how the users interact with contents such as scanning or reading and which contents are being scanned or read

How eye tracking works

An eye tracking device is used in determining a person’s gaze direction and concentration. The device is typically synched into a software that then generate heat maps and saccade pathways.

A heat map represents the areas where the user concentrated his or her gaze as well as the length of the gaze in a given point. Heat maps are represented using a color scale such as from green to red wherein red indicates the focus duration.

A saccade pathway, on the other hand, traces the movement of the eyes among various focus areas. The pathway represents the first element that the eyes notice and then moves with the other elements on a given page.

Its capabilities and limitations

Primarily, when doing a usability testing, considering the goals and resources and the capabilities and limitations are very important. The goal should be choosing the most appropriate usability method for your newly redesigned website. Some of the capabilities of eye tracking are:

  • Determining whether users are scanning or reading
  • Determining whether the users are searching for anything based on how the pupil diameter appears
  • Identifying the relative intensity of the user attention on various elements and parts of the page
  • Allowing the users to compare the scan patterns of various user groups

eye-tracking-resultsOn the other hand, eye tracking has certain drawbacks. For instance, it cannot:

  • Tell whether the users saw anything conscientiously and not just aimless browsing or staring without awareness
  • Tell whether the users did not see anything due to the inability to track peripheral vision
  • Tell why the users are looking at something on the page

Usability testing can be conducted without eye tracking. However, if you want to dig deeper into how a user behaves while on your website, then eye tracking can provide you valuable insights about such. Not only that, eye tracking is an indispensable tool when it comes to identifying and fixing usability problems. Anyhow, that’s what we want, right? For the users to find as few faults on our site as possible.

 

Sources: UXMatters.com | Usability.gov

Image credit: EyeTracking.me | LookTracker.com | TechWyse.com

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