Using eye tracking for UX design and testing
|Richard Harris in Application Testing Friday, January 18, 2019|
A new cloud-based testing tool for the UX community called Tobii Pro Sprint, employs eye tracking to gauge the usability of their designs during the prototype stage. The tool captures test subjects eye movements as they navigate a proposed website under design.
For UX designers working in fast-paced, agile environments, it is often difficult to make quick, informed design decisions. Many user testing tools and methods help to reveal the "what" behind user actions but fail to reveal the "why", subjecting decisions to opinion and bias. This makes it difficult to keep stakeholders and members of the design and development teams on the same page, ultimately slowing down the design process.
When conducting user tests, knowing where somebody is looking and how they interact with your design takes the guesswork out of UX and provides insights into what in an interface or website attracts a user’s attention, what they ignore, what they struggle with – and most importantly answering the why. User testing with eye tracking provides immediate and objective insights on how customers behave, speeding up the design and decision-making process. It can uncover design problems early in the UX creation process, saving companies time and money spent redoing navigation or placement after a launch. An entire UX prototype can be optimized based on how people visually engage with a site – what they see, what they don’t see, and what they should see.
We recently spoke with Jonas Eifrém Strinnholm, Marketing Manager at Tobii Pro, to hammer out the role of UX in app development, and how new eye-tracking technology can change your approach to designing user interfaces.
ADM: What role does UX play in the success of a digital application?
Strinnholm: User experience is more important than ever in determining the success or failure of a digital application or website. Today’s online customers and digital service users are picky and more willing to make snap judgments about a brand on the spot. With more options to choose from than ever before, every second a user is lost, confused, or unimpressed by their experience, the greater the likelihood they will drop-off and potentially use a different service. Around 40% of consumers abandon websites due to poor user experiences. Ideal user experience is no longer a choice, but a requirement for shepherding the end user along a path of purchase and making self-service features easy and simple to use.
ADM: What is eye tracking?
Strinnholm: Eye tracking is a technology that very accurately tracks where, when and what a person is looking at and is used extensively as a research tool. An eye tracking device contains near infra-red illuminators, advanced algorithms and up to four cameras to track where a person is focusing their attention on a screen, in a virtual reality environment, in a store, and much more. From knowing a user’s visual attention pattern, UX professionals and researchers can draw conclusions as to what drives user behaviors and decision making.
ADM: Who needs eye tracking in user testing? Who are some of your users/customers?
Strinnholm: Eye tracking in user testing is an essential method for any UX or design team aiming to understand the why behind user actions and removing the guesswork out of UX design and product development. Eye tracking provides an implicit measurement, circumventing bias and accessing the user subconscious in a way other traditional user testing methods cannot. This helps teams make quick, informed design decisions, saving time and money wasted on guesswork and fighting for buy-in from stakeholders.
Tobii Pro Sprint is our new web-based, plug-and-play eye tracking application that enables UX professionals working specifically in agile, fast-paced environments to access real-time valuable hidden insights without disrupting their current testing workflow. Users include H&M, Avanza, Mr. Green, one of the world’s largest online seller of home goods, and many others across all business types.
ADM: What limitations do you see in current UX testing tools?
Strinnholm: It’s important to use a range of UX testing tools when facilitating user tests including interviews, surveys, click and hover metrics, unmoderated testing, and others. However, many of these tools are subject to bias, with users often misremembering what they saw or did in a session. Click and hover data is valuable but serves as a poor proxy for where users are actually looking and often fails to tell the entire story.
For example, after 10 seconds of a user scrolling on a webpage or application, they may click on a CTA. With mouse tracking alone, you will see that they clicked the CTA, but you won’t see the text they were reading as they scrolled down the page, the images that did and didn’t catch their attention, the scanning of the menu bar, and many more actions taken during those 10 seconds that have myriad design implications.
By adding eye tracking into user testing practices, UX professionals gain a high level of insight that cannot be accessed by current UX testing tools.
ADM: What kind of insights can an app developer gain from applying eye tracking in the team’s user testing?
Strinnholm: Our tool allows UX professionals to gain eye tracking insights using a mock-up or interactive version of a mobile application via a mobile simulator or design platform like InVision.
Participants can be given specific tasks similar to those given for a desktop website such as “sign into the app”, “choose your preferences”, “find the menu and navigate to the settings page”, “access your favorites”, “purchase X product”, etc. By seeing where participants are looking within the application, UX professionals can determine if the menu is too difficult to find, the color scheme is distracting, icons do not clearly represent what they are meant to represent, the sign-in process is confusing and much more.
ADM: What is the goal with Tobii Pro Sprint? Why did you develop this solution?
Strinnholm: Tobii Pro Sprint was developed by our own UX team. They recognized an opportunity to make use of existing eye-tracking hardware to develop a software tool that could meet their need to make quick, informed design decisions without disrupting their agile way of working.
Our goal as a company is to make eye tracking as accessible as possible and easy to use for everyone. With our first release, we continue to carry out this mission by making eye-tracking insights faster to produce, easier to use, and more accessible than ever for UX professionals across all business types and industries.
Jonas is a Marketing Manager at Tobii Pro and a graduate from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, with a degree in Computer Science. Jonas has been working with digital user experiences and product development for more than a decade with some of the biggest and most innovative brands in Sweden.