Eye Tracking: What Is It & How to Use It for Usability Testing

Madison Zoey Vettorino
Madison Zoey Vettorino


Have you ever considered your eye movement as you read a page of your favorite book or quickly scan a website in search of information? Researchers are fascinated by this concept and are now implementing eye tracking UX testing to provide invaluable user insights. 

Person discussing the use of eye tracking UX technology with colleagues.

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Today, we'll walk you through the eye tracking process. Discover why it's useful, how it impacts usability testing, what you need to know before you get started, and how marketers can harness the power of this technology to craft websites that convert

What is eye tracking?

'Eye tracking' refers to technology that tracks an individual's eye movements. This tech helps you gain comprehensive insights into where a person is looking, what exactly they're looking at, and for how long.

You may hear the terms 'fixation' and 'saccade' when discussing eye tracking. 'Fixation' refers to the places where the individual's gaze stops moving. In contrast, the movement of the individual's eye between fixation points is 'saccade.' When researchers visualize saccades, they can examine the eye's paths when reading a page.

While the technology that enables us to complete eye tracking is new, the concept of 'eye tracking' dates back to the 1800s. So what does that mean for us today? Well, for one, efficient readers that briefly scan the text usually possess lengthier saccades and smaller fixations. Inefficient readers have the opposite. 

Why is eye tracking useful?

Eye tracking is beneficial for understanding what users notice and for how long. You can harness the power of eye tracking technology to garner insights about how users absorb video, advertisements, mobile UX, packages, product shelf placement, and websites. 

Use eye tracking UX to figure out how people absorb websites, advertisements, and more.

How does eye tracking influence usability testing? 

The eye-tracking UX conversation is so pervasive because this technology provides a highly desired — yet often elusive — perspective: that of the user themselves. When your company utilizes eye tracking UX testing technology, you gather insight into how people engage with your website or product in real-time, which may clue you into user obstacles that would benefit from troubleshooting. 

Furthermore, you can effectively use eye tracking UX tech to bolster information you obtain from other testing methods. With these tangible results, you may also opt to conduct additional experimentation. 

Completing eye tracking also reveals: 

  • Blind spots: Are users ignoring some aspects of your website? If eye tracking UX technology indicates so, you can begin strategizing how to make these more elements engaging. Once you've implemented the changes, you may conduct more eye tracking experiments to decipher if the adjustment was successful. 
  • Gaze patterns: Is there a specific pattern people follow when they interact with the content on your site? Are they drawn to a particular paragraph with a different font, leading them to ignore the header entirely? Noticing patterns provides insight regarding how people scan the content on your site, in what order the information gets processed, and how long it takes them to do so. 
  • Stumbling points: With the assistance of eye tracking UX technology, you'll discover if there are any 'stumbling points' for users interacting with your content. Yup, these are exactly what they sound like: elements that pose as trouble spots for users. They contribute to confusion or require a surplus of time to digest the information. 

You can then use this behavior analysis to make informed decisions regarding your website design, copy, and beyond.

How can you begin using eye tracking UX technology? 

The good news? Getting started with eye tracking for user experience testing isn't as laborious as it seems. In many cases, it's as simple as attaching an eye tracker to the testee's laptop via a USB cord. However, there are some best practices you should adhere to before completing testing. 

  • Do your homework. Test the technology out before your participants arrive. It's beneficial to run an example test with a colleague before your participants arrive. Doing so ensures the technology is successful. You also have the opportunity to iron out any glitches before the actual occasion. Pro tip: Don't wait until 20 minutes before the experiment to test — this should be completed at least a day prior. 
  • Consider lighting. Provide optimal lighting, and ensure the setting is the same for all people completing the testing. Very bright lighting or intense sunlight is also unsuitable for some eye trackers. 
  • Make sure your technology is eyeglasses-friendly. Ensure the technology works for people who wear glasses. Not all trackers can pick up the eye motions of people who wear eyeglasses. If any of your participants do wear eyeglasses, ensure that your tracker will work regardless. 

Once you test your technology, ensure optimal lighting, and guarantee that your tracker is eyeglasses friendly, you're ready to gain insight. 

When you begin using eye tracking UX technology, do your homework to ensure the tech works correctly, consider lighting, and ensure the tech works with eye glasses.

How does eye tracking UX technology impact marketers creating websites?

If you're a marketer, you may wonder what this all has to do with you. The answer: everything. Utilizing eye tracking UX technology allows marketers to garner a comprehensive understanding of where their website is connecting with users and where it's falling flat.

You can ask people how they scan your pages, what elements hold their attention, and what patterns they follow, but the answers you receive are often faulty at best. It's difficult for participants to recount their patterns, and their memory isn't perfect. Luckily, eye tracking technology entered the picture and now allows us to gain real-time insight into what people notice and how. 

Therefore, as a marketer, you'll have a window into understanding usability errors without disrupting the user's behavior in real-time. This allows for an objective and accurate record. Then, you can work with copywriters to fix text where people get stuck or work with your website designer to create a more appealing graphic element if users consistently skip the old one. The result is a website that offers a better user experience

Build a better website using eye tracking UX technology insights.

Now that you know the ins and outs of using eye tracking UX technology, you can use it to your advantage to create a website that converts. Remember: this is one of the best ways to gain accurate, real-time information regarding how users perceive your website, and it's more accessible than you'd think.

Use eye tracking wisely, and you can build a site that appeals to users' reading patterns and entices them to learn more about your company. 

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Topics: User Experience

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