Friday, February 13, 2009

Google and Eye-Tracking

A post from the Official Google Blog caught my eye last week: Eye-tracking Studies: more than meets the eye.

As Google points out, most people are not conscious of their eye movement, especially when doing something as mundane as a web search. Eye-tracking data lets you identify which elements of a webpage (or other stimulus) are viewed, and in what order. Just as importantly, you can identify elements that are not viewed - which may be the reason why task completion, ad recall or messaging breaks down.

In my opinion, eye-tracking is most powerful when it is combined with traditional think-aloud usability protocol. At Sentient, we do this with a little bit of a twist - first we start by allowing the user to complete a series of tasks without interruption from us to capture task completion and eye-tracking data without interference from trying to hold a conversation as well. Then we have the user walk us through what they were thinking and doing in a qualitative debrief.

By delving into a qualitative debrief after a user completes a task while their eyes are tracked we can learn the why behind what they did. For example:
  1. Did they linger on an element because it intrigued them or confused them?
  2. Why did they look at one navigation element, but then move to other navigation elements and click on them?

By adding eye-tracking to the usability arsenal, you get a rich interaction between the quantitative eye-tracking metrics and the qualitative insights derived from traditional usability methods.

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