Why web publishers need eye-tracking testing if they are serious about delivering a beautiful user experience along with seamless web functionality.
Myth #1: “Faces always & instantly draw attention.”
Myth #2: “Large text instantly draws a lot of attention.”
Myth #3: “The magical word ‘FREE’ always pops out.”
As EyeQuant’s 200 Website Eye-Tracking Study eloquently concluded (and busted the above myths) –
“Don’t rely on rules of thumb. Testing always beats guessing.”
So with this post I’ll give you 30 reasons on why you should get your own eye-tracking website usability testing done instead of following the said “best practices.”
Let’s do this…
1. To know what your website visitors see first (and last)
Whenever visitors comes to your site, what is the first page element that they see? The text copy, your brand logo, the top of the fold image, a specific site feature/offer etc. Knowing this gives you the information to better present the content on your website which can affect page-views, user sessions and conversions rates.
Also, by checking what they see last, you can find if there is a specific page element that might be influencing visitors’ departure. Consequently, you can remove the disruptive element and replace it with an incentive that could encourage them to hang around.
2. It’s automatic, accurate, fast and real-time
- Yes the process is automated (which increases reliability and reduces variability).
- It is accurate because the eye-tracking device is following the exact gaze of the user on the webpage.
- It records the travel path of the central vision of the user’s eye in real time which makes the resulting data more precise.
In the following picture, you will see the step-by-step procedure of how Tobii Technology carries out its eye-tracking testing.
3. Understanding user behavior (and hacking it)
Analyzing the natural interaction between the visitor and the webpage gives invaluable insight on user behavior. You can see which elements on the page are capturing the user’s interest and then use this information to either show more or less of such elements.
Joe Leech, from CXPartners, gave this brilliant example where eye tracking on Bristol Airport’s website showed how users explore the page if there is less content placed above the page fold. He writes in the post –
“The image below shows some recent eye tracking work we did with Bristol Airport. The screens show two different design treatments for the hero slot (the large, prominent image area) on the homepage.
The surprising thing we learnt was that actually having less above the fold (one large content block as opposed to 2 smaller ones) encouraged exploration below the fold.”
4. Help design a better website
Coupling conventional usability best-practices with eye-tracking, the data will help you gain a fuller understanding of the effectiveness of an interface’s design and which content to fit into it.
5. Scrolling pattern/speed/trigger
Eye-tracking helps in gauging how much time a user is spending between clicks and how quickly is he/she scrolling before task completion.
- Are they scrolling to the bottom of the page or just interacting with the top visible half.
- Are they open to the idea of scrolling left/right instead of just up/down.
- Do they scroll right past an important feature element in the middle of the page.
As Neil Patel says in his blog post 8 Powerful Takeaways from Eye Tracking Studies –
“People do scroll down. When they do, they go straight to the bottom of the page, where the scrolling stops. That’s where you want to hit them with your call to action.”
“It actually gets 39% more clicks than the call to action button in the middle of the membership page.”
6. Enable you to better monetize your blog
Your display advertising efforts will yield better click through rates if you understand which areas of the website the visitors are engaging with consistently. You can also better highlight product features, special offers, call-to-actions and other site elements; all of which are instruments to increase revenue.
Further Reading: 8 Best Ad Management WordPress Plugins To Help You Boost Website Monetization
7. Reduce banner blindness
Banner blindness means that a visitor is oblivious to the banner ads on your website. With eye-tracking you can significantly reduce the resultant loss in advertising revenue.
Further Reading: Banner Blindness
8. Gauging user attention span
Based on the time the user’s eyes spend on a particular part of the website, it becomes evident what holds his/her attention for a considerable period. This attention span is a window of opportunity to hook them, encourage them and engage them.
Such acute information helps in developing a consensus that allows a webmaster to make smarter decisions regarding resources and features allocation.
9. Understand user concentration areas
This is different from the above point because attention span is “time duration” and concentration areas are “places of interest.”
Concentration areas are above the fold, between the fold and bottom of the fold (fold: content). Based on eye-tracking results you can efficiently place discounts/special features/banner ads/subscription forms.
GazeHawk was generous enough to share this image on their eye-tracking usability blog from one of the case studies. The image highlights advanced visualization of eye-tracking data on the WikiPedia’s home page –
10. Images vs Text vs Videos
It helps you measure which type of content is attracting more attention. Attraction is not necessarily always good. While it is valuable to know what is interesting your user and increasing engagement; it is also critical to understand what is driving a user’s attention away from, let’s say, a Call-T0-Action button.
11. Your website’s usability
One of the most fundamental uses of eye-tracking among web publishers is to see how easy it is for the visitors to use their site. Are they able to easily move around the site and understand menu options. Do they quickly understand how the site functions and is it easy for them to find the information they were looking for?
From Tobbii’s case study on Spotify –
“The eye-tracking uncovered several obstacles in the subscription and payment processes, and showed that many users had difficulties getting started with the application.”
You can find the link to the complete case study here.
12. Improved visual communication
You have the opportunity to optimize the visual content on your site to be more informative and appropriate to work in sync with your business goals.
In the example below, Dmitry Fadeyev wrote in his article on SmashingMagazine –
“Here’s an eye-tracking study that demonstrates this. We’re instinctively drawn to faces, but if that face is looking somewhere other than at us, we’ll also look in that direction. Take advantage of this phenomenon by drawing your users’ attention to the most important parts of your page or ad.”
13. Guessing visual patterns
When a visitor (unique and returning) comes to your site, how does he/she go about reading your website. Unique visitors concentrate on the top of the fold first and take a look around the website to guess its functionality and ‘what is where’.
Returning visitors will however immediately find their way towards what they were specifically looking for and might (and do) completely ignore other page elements. You, have to find that distinction and design the content on your website to be able to handle both kind of visitors/customers.
In his post on CreativeBloq, UX and Web-design expert Chris Bank reminds us about the F-reading pattern (first mentioned by Jakob Nielsen in this research) –
• “Users will rarely read every word of your text.
• The first two paragraphs are the most important and should contain your hook.
• Start paragraphs, subheads, and bullet points with enticing keywords.”
14. Understanding which features are the most eye catching
Is the “Customize your Subscription” feature on the product page getting more attention than the “Most popular Posts” tab? Will adding or removing an image balance the attention span of a user?
It helps when such questions are answered accurately.
15. …which features are confusing
If seeing “what is eye catching” is necessary, so is knowing “what is confusing”.
When users don’t understand a particular page element then they might choose to completely ignore it or spend too much time on it trying to make sense of it. Both of which can be devastating to your website’s user-experience and monetizing efforts.
16. …and which features are ignored altogether
A feature like “Free trials” might be getting completely ignored because it is embedded within an image or below it (Note: Both of which are bad practices).
Think of it on the lines of the “iamnotgoingtospoilitforyou experiment”. The video below will explain it better (go ahead! It’s a fun exercise) –
Note: It’s actually called the invisible gorilla experiment 😛
17. Improve website navigation
Along with usability, seamless website navigation is what is critical for web publishers. Clear flow of content = higher engagement.
In his UXMatter ‘Feature‘ article (and one of the first articles in the industry relating to the technology of eye-tracking), UX Designer & Researcher Jim Ross explains the importance of navigation with an example of the Beijing 2008 Olympics beach volleyball schedule web page –
“Figure 4 is an example of how eye-tracking can show whether a design guides participants effectively through an information seeking task—in this case, finding the dates of the beach volleyball finals on the 2008 Beijing Olympics schedule.
The gaze plot in Figure 5 shows the common and extended visual paths of multiple participants as they tried to find the dates on this confusing schedule.
Clearly, the design of this schedule needed major improvements.”
18. Increase efficiency of website banner ads
A research study carried out by the ad network Infolinks found out that 86 percent of visitors completely ignore all the banner ads on a website. Now, I don’t need to repeat the fact that this severely affects the revenue generated from your website, but I just did because it does.
Eye-tracking can show you, subject to your website’s design/theme, which areas on the page get user attention. You can then use this information to optimize your ad placement and hopefully drive the revenue scale up.
Below is an image which shows the results of eye tracking carried out on a web page to test content vs display advertising –
19. Understand what is working and what needs to be replaced or optimized
Again, you weed out –
- what is working vs
- what is not vs
- what has to work in order complete business goals.
Like how SMIVision found in its web-design usability testing for FirstMerit Corporation that –
“- Users struggle to identify the difference between ‘business’ and ‘commercial’ banking.
– Users do not clearly understand ‘PrivateBank.’
– Users struggle to identify the difference between ‘business’ and ‘commercial’ banking.”
As a result of this eye-tracking analysis, FirstMerit has now incorporated a more robust visual design into their website.
20. Improved E-commerce and reduced cart abandonment
Cart abandonment can happen due to any reason (lack of interest/assurance, delivery charges) but to find that exact pain-point is what eye-tracking facilitates.
For example – In 2014, Thomas Storgaard Grønne along with Baymard Institute’s Christian Holst, used eye-tracking for conducting a research to understand user behavior on e-commerce websites.
I’ll share 2 of their findings as examples to better illustrate the point –
• Place the guest-checkout as the most prominent option.
• Don’t display objects in a time limited drop down window, which require or encourage the user to interact with it.
Update [26/02/2015]: The research link has been removed. The study will be published at Baymard.com one by one, in a more readable format where all of the eye-tracking study findings are reflected and expanded upon to cover the full context and practical implementation consequences.
Until then, you can see Christian’s webinar on ‘8 Checkout Optimization Lessons Based on 5+ Years of Testing‘ hosted by VWO.
21. Understand how the size of ad units affects user interaction with them
Too big an ad and the user might just get irritated and bounce from your site. Too small an ad and it will affect click-through rates; eye-tracking can help in uncovering the sweet spot.
In the video below, you can see how users interact with multiple size ad units across desktops, mobiles and tablets –
“This eye tracking study of the effectiveness of different ad formats on an iPad vs. a desktop PC shows that the leader board format is still the most effective in reaching consumers.
On the iPad, leader boards performed significantly better than other ads with users fixating 44% longer than the next best performing ad, and holding consumer attention 22.5% longer than a PC.
On both platforms, leader boards were seen quickest and had the highest percentage of people noticing them.” – Tobii.com
22. Text ads vs Video ads
I agree, that through analytics software you can conclude which type is getting more clicks and use those on your site.
But eye-tracking shows which type is attracting the user’s interest. Greater the interest = greater the chances of action.
E.g. Your text ad gets 20 clicks out of 100 impressions and your video ad gets 5. What if, eye-tracking revealed that users concentrated more on video ads but because the ads auto-started, users got annoyed and paused the ad or just bounced off.
In 2013, CMO.com collected a list of stats from around the web regarding the growth of video advertising. Point no. 9 from the list states –
“9. In terms of what kind of ads are selling best in display, in the U.S. rich media and video ads are by far the most popular formats for ad buyers. Static images, which were worth more than video two years ago, are now declining fast, at a rate of nearly 45 percent.
But another low-tech format is doing much better: Text-based display ads are actually growing at a faster pace than rich media ads (both more than 16 percent).”
I’m not sharing this information to influence your decision to include more video ads on your website but to reiterate the premise of this post which is – “Don’t rely on rules of thumb. Testing always beats guessing.” What might be working for ten other websites in your market space, might not always work for you.
23. Effective brand exposure and re-call
Through eye tracking testing you can see the extent to which your brand is visible and can be made out as soon as a visitor arrives on your webpage or while he/she is navigating it.
Below is a popular, admittedly overused, example where with the help of eye-tracking marketers were able to hack consumer attention away from the female model’s face and direct it towards the brand and product.
Brand exposure is important because of the concept of ‘brand-recall’. That moment when you’re not able to recollect a specific person/service/content and out of nowhere it just hits and you click your fingers and go like “oh yeah! that’s the one” – that’s brand recall. A psychological response triggered by a logo, picture or company name.
In a case study for market research, SMI tested if there was a correlation between product placement in a Lady Gaga music video and brand recall. One of the conclusions was that frequency of branding is more important than size.
24. More accurate heatmaps
Heatmaps count and collate mouse movement, clicks and scrolling (speed and time). You can add more accuracy to your heatmaps with eye tracking because sometimes a person takes his/her mouse farther from a picture or a button because they want to see it better. They are removing the mouse pointer’s distraction which therefore does not mean that they do not intend to click on the button or find it uninteresting.
Note: Here’s an exhaustive list of 20 Heatmap Tools for testing your website’s usability.
25. Estimating the success of a campaign
Whether visitors noticed a particular element—such as a link, button, advert, a new feature added to the user interface or even a completely new layout of site elements.
Note: Did you know something as small as ‘typography’ can affect your reader’s attention?
26. Gauge consumer spontaneous reactions
A keen insight taken from real-life eye-tracking solutions offered by companies –
“Eye-tracking gives you the only valid way of measuring shelf visibility, because it’s fully a behavioral measure. If you ask consumers attitudinally what they saw on shelf, you’re not going to get accurate information, because recall is biased by brand familiarity. If a shopper sees a soda shelf, she will ‘remember’ seeing Coke and Pepsi, even if they weren’t actually on the shelf.”
– Scott Young, president at Perception Research Services (PRS)
Similarly, for e.g. – eye-tracking can help marketers and web publishers see how visitors react to pop up notifications like email capture boxes, feedback boxes and offers. Are their eyes automatically looking for the “Close” button or do they actually read the information.
27. To help you run better email campaigns
Surprised? Thought you had to only worry about how your website performed? Not really.
Whether it be newsletters, subscription responses or email ads; you can better understand which inbox elements to optimize to better present your ads and more importantly – find out customer attention areas.
Still not convinced? Here’s a smart fact for you –
“Email ad revenue reached $156 million in 2012. (Interactive Advertising Bureau).” – Salesforce Blog
28. Enhanced mobile units page usability and advertising
SmartInsights reports that 80 percent of internet users have smartphones which they use to access and search the internet.
I don’t have to say it out loud that this a huge market share of current and potential consumers and if web publishers haven’t developed websites with responsive designs then they’re in for a nasty surprise. Not only this, smartphones and tablets require tailor made –
- usability and navigation
- task completion guidance
- display advertising
- interface elements
- user interaction
Eye-tracking facilitates an insight on which interface and page elements on your website are acting as a hindrance in usability and which are catching the user’s interest.
Essentially, you have to ask yourself this – “Is the purpose and functionality of my service/product seamless and crystal clear?” It is a business and competitive necessity to optimize the designs of your web services and products for mobile consumption.
The image below gives an example of how eye-tracking on mobiles work (source video) –
29. To find out how users are reading your content or scanning?
I touched upon the F-shaped reading pattern in Point no. 13 above. Why it’s being repeated over here is because of ‘context’.
The NielsenNormanGroup’s 2006 report suggests that most users do not read the full text but ‘scan’ it to pick up the gist of the content. Once they infer it’s valuable, then only will they proceed to read the entire post.
Now this is not a fixed convention for every website and which is why it would be wise of a publisher to test it rather than just sticking to best practices.
Note: Here’s CopyBlogger author Pamela Wilson‘s brilliant article on writing engaging copies titled 8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content.
30. Keep an eye out for the competition
It might (and does) come to happen that your website has a leak due to which an alarming portion of your traffic is bouncing off. And even though you have optimized all the page elements for max performance and experience, something is still off. In such a case, it pays to take some inspiration from your competition.
Getting your primary competitors’ websites tested with eye-tracking can reveal usability or content consumption flaws in your own website. The resulting information enables you to pickup what is working for them and give it a go on your website.
It pays to keep an eye out for the competition not only when you’re in trouble but as strategic market knowledge too.
Popular eye-tracking testing providers
- 10 Useful Findings About How People View Websites (ConversionXL)
- 9 Simple Yet Effective Tips to Capitalize on Eye-Tracking Insights (CrazyEgg)
- [Slideshare] Eye Tracking & Design (OptimalUsability)
Eye-tracking provides the only 3 benefits your website needs, which are –
- making it easier to navigate (increased traffic, page-views, engagement and sessions)
- higher monetization (more conversions, effective and targeted display advertising)
- give a beautiful user experience (crystal clear flow of information and a UX tailored to your website’s needs and not just a generic feel)
If you’ve had first hand experience of using eye-tracking or a know a benefit that I missed out on, then do share it below in the comments and spread the knowledge.
Researchers can use eye-tracking technology to observe and measure eye movements, pupil dilation, point of gaze, and blinking to determine what subjects pay attention to.
With eye tracking, researchers can determine which items capture someone’s attention, understand how they perceive an ad or product, and discover what drives them to buy.
Business owners and marketers can use eye tracking to understand user interaction with their websites and landing pages. By using eye tracking and heatmaps, you can strategize your landing page design and gain startling insights.