Online eye-tracking studies have been used for years as an indicator of user interest in certain areas on a page measured by the point-of-gaze. At its most basic eye-tracking studies are interested in which elements on a page are responsible for garnering the most attention as measured by ‘looks’, ‘gazes’ or ‘views’.
As a stand-alone practice in the online world, eye-tracking studies are relatively useless for a number of reasons:
1. The messaging influences what people look for and at. A very clear example that involved a user study can be seen in the images below (from this great resource).
Another example may be found innocently enough in your PPC campaigns.
- If the messaging in your adcopy mentions a ‘10% discount for 1st time buyers’, users who click through to your landing page will be looking for that 10% discount message and will focus on it. However, if your adcopy is focusing on a different value proposition; e.g. ‘98% of customers repurchase. Read their reviews & find out why!’ – you may very well see that the message is impacting the eye tracking heat-map with the larger/more concentrated area of focus being first the reviews, and second the discount.
2. The eye tracking heat map alone cannot tell you about actual interaction.
Did the reviews sell more users? Did the 10% discount clinch the deal? Even if both areas of the page have equal ‘heat’ or interest, and even if both have their own near-vicinity ‘buy now’ button with the same amount of ‘heat’ – which message actually resulted in the most conversions, if any?
You need a more robust program to work in conjunction with eye-tracking heat maps to measure interaction – like that offered by Crazy Egg and Omniture. Images below are courtesy of www.crazyegg.com.
The eye-tracking heat map is interesting, but the interactive overlay is far more useful and actionable from a usability measurement and refinement point of view in my experience. (I can’t use work examples in this blog but I can say that this info is bang on the money in my personal opinion.)
3. Eye tracking heat maps appear to imply that if there’s no heat no one saw it. People focus on what is most important to them. They scan and they use their peripheral vision.
Just because the ‘point-of-gaze’ does not focus on a message or an image does not mean it wasn’t seen, nor that it played no part in the final purchase decision.
4. Eye tracking heat maps imply that we are more attracted to and engaged emotionally with the area with the most ‘heat’. But areas of ‘heat’ can in turn be affected by a number of other factors; background colour, size of image or text, placement of the image or text and a host of other factors…
…or you’re simply more attracted to Crook.
Eye tracking heat maps do help us to realign our thinking. How great would it be if we could marry our areas of greatest visual appeal with our most effective areas and types of interaction and conversion; best page position, best call to action, best preceding and post-focus area copy and imagery, best driving messages, best supportive peripherally designed collateral… etc.
Eye tracking was a revolutionary way to view how your customers were viewing your pages, but it’s not enough. It’s good to know, but it’s not going to get you the conversions or click throughs to your cart that you want – not on its own. It’s not going to show you how to optimize your user experience either – not on its own. It has a place in your marketing toolkit for sure – but not on its own…
(With grateful thanks to Harry Brignull’s ‘What You Need to Know About Eye-Tracking’)