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About Eye Tracking
In web design, eye tracking is a tool used to help determine what a viewer looks at on a web page. It can be used in combination with usability testing, which can help isolate the hotspots and dead zone locations. It is useful for testing navigation page layouts and brand awareness (for marketing purposes).
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How it Works
The eye tracker reflects where the pupil of the eye is gazing on screen with infrared light. To keep from distracting the viewer, the device is embedded into the monitor. An optical sensor or video camera then records these images to a file on the computer. The data is analyzed by colored “heat map” spots that display over the viewed web page(s). Red to yellow colored spots show the concentrated “hotspot” viewing areas while blue or non colored regions determine weak or dead zones.
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Scientific studies using eye tracking for websites has resulted in some interesting findings. Many users tend to first look at the top left corner of a web page. It also has been discovered that text is more commonly viewed first, before graphic images. The thinking is that many individuals are more concerned with utilizing the web as a source of information rather than pretty pictures.
Companies who would like to take the scientific study of eye tracking a step further should also consider hiring a behavioral neurolologist. Their specialty involves an understanding of brain activity and how it affects a person's behavior. This person could help you choose better participants, design more appropriate tests and evaluate the results more effectively.
Fancy fonts used in web design are ignored by many viewers since they assume that the text is an advertisement. However, varying the font size influences how long a person looks at a particular page. Larger text seems to result in scanning behavior while smaller text encourages more focused reading.
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A couple problems with eye tracking are its high cost and technical issues. An eye tracking device can cost $30,000. Since this price is impractical for many people, companies that offer this tool have testing at their location. You will need to provide them with the appropriate URL or files. Those who are more tech savvy can try to find a lower cost eye tracker and attempt to install it themselves. However, the equipment is difficult to set up and once put into use may not understand how to read and analyze the eye tracker’s results.
Due to the eye tracking tool’s reliance on visual readings, participants monitored with it cannot give verbal feedback during testing. It does not give a psychological picture of why people focus on certain images and text. The device is also incompatible with individuals who have vision problems (like astigmatism).