Let's do a quick exercise. Pretend I pulled up a website you've never seen before and I start asking you some questions:
"Can you find the phone number quickly?"
"Is the navigation laid out clearly?"
"Can you find the call to action within a couple of seconds?"
You might give a quick "yes" to all of these, as you scan the site and say "yup, there's the phone number. Yes, the navigation makes sense. Yes, of course I can find the call to action quickly. It's where I'd expect to see it."
But as your mouth says "yes", your eyes and your mind may actually be saying "No" or "Of course I'm expected to know about navigation, so I'll just agree" or "What call to action? All I'm focusing on is the model's hat."
There are many reasons why you might have just answered "yes" to all my questions. One could be that you want to tell me what I want to hear. A second could be that you told me what you think I'd expect to hear from you (maybe because of your job, gender or age). A third could be that you didn't even realise that you weren't being totally truthful.
All of these possible reasons are potential validity issues or possible biases of using types of market research that allow for "self-reporting".
You might be wondering how we can really reduce these types of issues. Since we want to know people's thoughts and how usable something may be, it might seem that asking them is really the only way to get to that information (maybe hook them up to a lie detector to make sure they're being honest?).
There is a better option! Using a compact sensor, computer and some special software, we can actually track someone's eye movement as they use a site, tool or app. You'll be able to see how long it took for their eyes to find the phone number, if they could find their way through the navigation and if they skipped right over the call to action...no lie detector needed!
There are particular kinds of information where eye tracking
is especially useful:
- Paths that people follow through a website, tool or app - for example, where they went first, or what areas they skipped over. This type of activity is shown on a gaze trail (see image 1). The lines show the path the viewer visually followed.
- How quickly it takes someone to find something.
- Any hesitations while the user is going through the site, tool or app.
- The length of time someone spends on a specific item. Are the areas where you want attention paid, actually receiving this attention? This type of activity can be shown on a heat map (see image 2). The intensity of the colour indicates where a viewer is focusing their attention and what areas are drawing the most attention.
- Where the user thinks certain items should be (and whether those elements are there or not)
Image 1: Gaze Trail.
Image 2: Heat Map.
Eye tracking can add a lot of value in usability testing and market research - it helps eliminate a lot of the uncertainty and bias that can creep up with some other types of market research. Think about using it as part of the market research for your next project; it can help you get the answers youre looking for without having to take someone`s word for it.