Eye tracking is a piece of technology which enables users to follow the eye movements of an individual. This is most commonly used by online marketers to research how successfully a piece of online content captures the attention of a viewer.
This technology enables users to track the path of the viewer’s gaze across the content, while also detailing the order in which they look at these elements.
This technique can assist the process of web analytics, as it provides a useful insight into viewers’ responses to the content. In the case of a website, eye tracking can be used to make changes to a web page in order to create a more enjoyable experience for visitors and boost the conversion rate that the company achieves.
Information about the eye movements of the viewer is then compiled into an eye tracking report. Website creators and marketers often use eye tracking reports to gauge how attention-grabbing their online materials are. Then, this report can be used to ensure that key elements of the web page are seen by more visitors.
How to create an eye tracking report
The process of eye tracking uses a specialist piece of technology with a built-in gaze tracking device. This monitors the position of the eye and how it moves across the screen. These devices commonly operate by using infrared light, which the eye reflects onto a sensor.
A projector will project this light onto the viewer’s eyes. Then, an in-built camera photographs the viewer’s eyes during the course of their viewing session. A computer with specialist image processing software then analyzes these images and constructs a map of the viewing session. The computer converts the information that it has gathered into a more accessible format for the website developer to assess.
This research tool is designed to be an unobtrusive type of user measurement, which encourages the viewer to interact with the image in a completely natural way.
For an eye tracking test, the user will need to be present in person and specialist equipment will be required. This equipment can be purchased online and used in-house by the company. However, the required equipment is often expensive.
Alternatively, a company may wish to pay an eye tracking specialist consultant to perform the test on their behalf and help them to interpret the results.
An screenshot taken from the eye tracking tool IMOTIONS
Eye tracking systems can operate in a number of different ways, including embedded display systems, specialist computer software, or specialist glasses for the viewer to wear.
An eye tracking test could also be combined with other user behavior measurement tools, such as tracking the use of the keyboard, mouse tracking or voice monitoring.
What can eye tracking be used for?
Eye tracking is used across a range of research fields and applications, including psychology, healthcare, neuromarketing and aviation, to name a few.
It is also commonly used to provide valuable information for online marketers, which helps them to assess the success of their online offerings.
Eye tracking can provide marketers with information regarding a wide variety of user metrics, including:
- What elements of the content are being viewed
- Which elements of the content are the most visually engaging
- How long a user views a particular element of the content
- The order in which different elements of the content are viewed
- How clear the content is for the viewer to follow
- The success of different elements of the content in relation to each other
- See how much attention a viewer places on the content
- What areas of the content are being ignored
- The patterns of usage and the behavior of different users
It is important to note that the main issue with eye tracking is that it provides you with a breakdown of these viewer trends, but the data is objective - as a result, it is up to the owner of the website to assess why these trends may exist.
Interpreting an eye tracking report
After a research sesion, the eye tracking data is compiled into a report. The report of the eye tracking session could be displayed in the form of either a video recording of the user’s journey through the webpage, a heat map or a saccade pathway diagram.
A heat map acts as a colour-coded data visualization technique. For this, a warm to cold colour scale is used to indicate volume. The warmer the colour on the image, the more often it has been viewed. It also displays information pertaining to how long a viewer looked at a particular point on the image. This is shown by a red to blue colour scale, with a red dot on a point indicating that this point was focused on for more time than other areas of the image.
A saccade pathway illustrates this pattern as a series of red dots and lines. The red dots are numbered in the order that they were viewed, and red lines connecting these dots represent the path which the eye took to reach this point.
Importance for Online Marketing
This type of tracking enables marketers to gain a clearer understanding of how users interact with online content. It provides a more detailed understanding of user behavior, which can help marketers optimize their content.
By understanding what areas of an image the audience did and did not engage with, changes can be made accordingly, in order to create visual materials which are more engaging, intuitive and easy-to-follow.
A/B testing can also be combined with eye tracking in order to gauge the impact of different changes to the web page to this effect. For example, eye tracking could be used to improve a landing page, optimize a call to action, reduce the exit rate of a page, redesign a web page, or undertake a process of mobile optimization.