Eyetracking

What is it that draws your attention? Is it bright colors? Text? A certain design? The logo in the top left corner? Simplicity? Or, where do your eyes move on the page? These are questions that you personally may not have thought of but a web designer needs to know the answers to. But it gets more complicated than just that. Does your eye movement differ depending on whether you are looking at a computer versus a tablet versus a cell phone screen?

Studies have been conducted for decades to try and understand the way the human eye moves across the page. Advertisers, web designers, and journalists want to understand this to know how to better target their audience. Back in 1990-1991, Poynter conducted a study that searched to find out what people looked at in the newspaper and found that photos really attracted people, specifically color photos. Furthermore, the image was typically the focal point on the page and then the readers eye travelled to the headlines, followed by captions, and ending with the actual text. Then, in 2003-2004, another study was conducted but focused around web sites. They found that readers generally entered the page in the upper left corner, where the logo is typically placed. Along with that, advertisements in the top and left sections of the page attracted the most attention.

Now, these are just a few of the facts about eye tracking, there is a lot behind how people view a tablet as well that Poynter also conducted a study to see. It is our goal as advertisers and web designers to design a page that is easy to read and navigate, but also catch the human eye’s attention and advertise successfully. Understanding these points is essential to do this effectively.

Questions:

  1. I’ve discussed some of the pros of eye-tracking, but what do you think some of the cons are?
  2. What was your understanding of eye-tracking prior to now?

 

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8 thoughts on “Eyetracking

  1. Eye-tracking research is very expensive…and many times you need to also rely on complementary methods. As I was reading up on the topic, I also found out folks who wear contact lenses are usually disqualified. That means I am out. But overall, I would see it seems to be a good method of measurement.

    When we changed our graphics at the TV station, we talked about the positioning of the bug and over the shoulders…bringing in the left to right idea. However, I know realize eye-tracking is so much more. It’s pretty cool.

  2. The concern with eye tracking is the concern with any study. Will people change their habits when they know they are being watched? This is especially true if they have a giant contraption on their head. Spending that much money on a study is quite difficult too as Kat alluded to. I think being able to utilize hidden cameras to recognize users actions on a normal basis (something like grocery stores putting cameras in the aisles) could eliminate this problem, but there are privacy concerns with that too.

    My knowledge of eye tracking prior to now was primarily related to what we learned in other classes. How the eyes move throughout a website and how colors can have impacts. I had never heard of Poynter before, but was aware of the eye tracking hardware. I think it will be interesting to see if devices like Microsoft’s Kinect will be able to make a difference in future eye tracking endeavors.

    • I have never participated in an eye tracking study, but I have in other studies. I feel like when I do participate I almost look for or say what the researcher is wanting me to – changing my normal habits. This goes hand in hand with what you were saying. It is extremely difficult to act normal when you are being observed and already you can’t act normally because of the contraption on your head.

      • I’ve never participated in studies like those, but I have found that group studies can be highly manipulative too. An extreme example of this can be seen in the movie “The Runaway Jury.” One leader or stubborn mind can change the attitudes of everyone in a group by themselves if given the opportunity. As seen in this article, the caucus system in Iowa where groups of people can be convinced to change their vote has also caused problems: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/72755.html . In the long-term, people will succumb to peer or associated social pressures. These are definitely in full effect in studies like the eye tracking one.

  3. One of the major cons of eye tracking is how un-natural the process seems…at least how they describe it in our readings. A person would have to sit perfectly still or the camera would need to be calibrated again. However, then there was that video that Jorie showed us in class about the eye tracking study done with the two soccer players. Obviously neither one of them was stationary!

    Prior to this class, I just knew about the general “F” and “Z” website style layouts that were the most useful in guiding a consumer’s eye through your site.

  4. I think one of the cons could be a hindrance to creative design. While eyetracking is important I think there are some businesses where creativity should overrule eyetracking research. If for example, this is a business that focuses on art or just being different, designing your site to the same eyetracking rules as everyone else would kind of go against your brand.

  5. I have done an eyetracking study before and the process wasn’t that bad. There was a helmet with a camera aimed at your eye and you calibrated it once at the beginning of the test. I wasn’t studying a website however so I’m not sure it might change my experience of reading the news. I probably would become hyper-aware of my gaze and couldn’t act naturally. Luckily the experiment I participated in was far enough removed from my normal activities that I didn’t have a problem with the eyetracker watching me.

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