How Eye-Tracking Research is Revolutionizing the Web

How Eye-Tracking Research is Revolutionizing the Web

In today’s digital world, web analytics and user insights are in demand.

One tool marketers can use to gain insight into user preference is eye tracking. Eye-tracking research is another form of user experience testing. Like user experience tests, eye-tracking research is based in scientific methodology. However, unlike simple questionnaires or surveys, eye-tracking research uses participants’ physical reactions to validate (or invalidate) feedback expressed during the user test.

When it comes to web projects, eye tracking can provide valuable information at any phase of a project.

  • Old site evaluation – What are people looking at when they arrive on your site? Understanding what works well (or poorly) can help you decide what needs to be updated. This can be for a full website redesign or standard site maintenance.
  • Wireframes – At Converge, we use wireframes to validate three primary assumptions: 1.) Do we have the right elements on the page? 2.) Are the elements in the correct order? 3.) Are the elements sized appropriately in relation to other elements on the page? Eye-tracking research tests these assumptions and ensures your templates effectively use page elements.
  • New page designs – Using eye-tracking research on new page designs can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your site’s navigational components. We often use multiple navigational components on a page (text links, menu navigation, icons and images). With eye-tracking research, we can determine if those methods are garnering the interest necessary to be effective navigational components.


Eye Tracking 101

Eye tracking measures an individual’s eye activity by recording eye position and movement. Eye-tracking technology monitors the movement of participants’ corneas to assess:


1. What draws users’ attention first


Understanding what users first look at is key to making sure they understand the purpose of the page and how to navigate to their destination.



This is a heat map of prospective students’ initial view of the University of Wyoming home page. In this example, the University of Wyoming has included a video on their home page. As you can see in the red areas on the bronco flag video, it attracts users’ initial attention. However, we also see that the content on the first featured text area grabs users.

This is significant because we can utilize those areas to feature important initiatives in the future.


2. What doesn’t attract attention


If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? If your website has content but no one views it, should it still exist?



[Tweet “If your website has content but no one views it, should it still exist?”]

The video component and resource links toward the bottom of the home page don’t command as much attention.

We can use Google Tag Manager to understand how many times a link is being clicked, but that only tells us part of the story. The heat map eye-tracking research helps us understand why the link isn’t being clicked and can give us a strategy moving forward.

In this instance, we could increase the size of the video. Maybe we cut the resource links by half and increase the size of the links. Or maybe we leave the page as is because the elements we want users to notice are already commanding attention.


3. What users look at over time and how they browse the page


Which elements get attention in a non-linear way? For example, which elements do users notice before (or after) we’d expect based on the element’s position on the page?



Eye-tracking research allows us to understand the order in which web page elements are consumed. In this example, users consume the navigational components at the top right of the page after their initial review of the video component and featured text. While we know the video and text command initial attention, users don’t ignore the navigational components and still use them early on to navigate the site.


4. How certain elements impact the consumption of other elements


It’s no secret that photos and videos can draw attention to your website. That’s often the purpose of visual elements, and the key is making sure these components serve a purpose.



As you can see with the heat map on this page, the visual elements on the right half of the page consistently attract less attention than their text counterparts. This page highlights the different colleges at the University of Wyoming, and we’d like users to understand the colleges and programs offered through the text on the page. In this respect, the page design successfully conveys the colleges and programs offered.

However, the long-scroll page means the elements at the bottom do not attract as much attention as the elements at the top. It’s difficult to say if this long scroll has a negative impact on the programs lower on the page, but it does provide a hypothesis to test if we updated the format of this page.

The insights from eye-tracking research can provide the information you need to make impactful changes to your website.


Thinking about making updates to your website to make it more dynamic? Contact us to talk about new ideas.

Andy Sulhoff
Andy Sulhoff
June 28, 2017