Testing Techniques Part 6: Eye Tracking

Animated GIF of a Doodle whose eyes are moving as though they are reading a webpage.

What’s the first thing you look at when you land on a webpage — the colorful image? The headers? The blinking advertisement?

At We ❤︎ Health Literacy Headquarters, we often ask this and other similar questions about sites that we work on. And if you’ve ever been involved in creating a website, you’ve almost certainly found yourself wondering, “What do people focus on when they look at my site?”

Fortunately, eye tracking can help answer that question. Eye tracking is a type of research that measures where people look — the visual path they take through a website. While usability testing helps you learn how well (or not well) features of your site work, eye tracking provides a more complete picture of users’ behavior.

There are many ways to conduct eye tracking, but the most common method is to mount a special camera on a user’s computer or mobile device. The camera then records the user while they look at your site, tracking:

  • Where they look on each page
  • How long they look at each page
  • The order in which they look at different areas of the page

Sounds pretty great, right? It totally is!

When you’re ready to try eye tracking, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Eye tracking equipment can be expensive. Consider partnering with a usability lab at a nearby university or research center that does this type of testing.
  • There’s a lot of analysis involved in eye tracking, so it can help to have others watch the study with you. Your team can take notes to help kick start the analysis process.
  • Some eye tracking cameras don’t work well when people wear glasses, particularly bifocals — so you may want to recruit folks who don’t wear them (or request that participants wear contacts).
  • Eye tracking gives you super useful data that’s hard to get with any other testing method — but on its own, it may not explain why users do what they do. So we suggest pairing it with some qualitative research. (We really, really ❤︎ eye tracking + usability testing. Just sayin’.)

The bottom line: Eye tracking gives you valuable information about how people use your site — and what’s catching their attention.


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