Beyond Clicks: Enhancing Usability Through Eye Tracking

By Rita Heng, Senior Research Manager, 2CV

Image by WangXiNa from Freepik

Reconciling user engagement with design team expectations proves to be a common challenge faced by brands when enhancing product usability for an improved user experience. 

Incorporating eye-tracking into UX research can help design teams gain deeper insights into user behaviour through the observation of interactions and attention triggers. This understanding can be leveraged to exceed user expectations, and thus maintain a competitive edge.

What is eye-tracking?

Eye-tracking technology utilises cameras connected to devices that monitor and measure an individual’s eye movements and gaze, allowing observers to simultaneously view both user behaviour and their point of gaze in real-time.

Different eye-tracking devices cater to distinct insight requirements. For physical product UX studies, mobile eye-tracking glasses are recommended. They allow users to interact freely across multiple touchpoints in the natural environment and minimise the impact of environmental factors (e.g. lighting conditions, distractions).

Eye-tracking can be integrated into a wide range of UX research, spanning from assessing design variations in both digital (e.g., web, mobile) and physical (e.g., product packaging, print) formats, to conducting game playtests on various device types (e.g., PC, mobile, console). Mobile eye-tracking glasses are also a valuable tool to gain insights into shopping behaviours and user journeys. It allows us to observe behaviours in a natural setting and explore touchpoint interactions at a deep level.

What’s the value of eye-tracking? 

No more guesswork

We aren’t always consciously aware of where our eyes are drawn. Eye tracking can help unveil unconscious behaviour that is often difficult to articulate.

While users can verbalise their thoughts during or after the given task—these are often provided in retrospect, after conscious rationalising. By incorporating eye tracking within qualitative interviews, we gain valuable insights into what information participants saw and then retained. This approach goes beyond simply relying on recall and offers concrete evidence of visual engagement and retention.

What you see is what you get

With eye-tracking, we also get tangible, visualised data that illustrates eye movement as an individual process—noting the points of fixation, duration of fixation, movement to next fixation—essentially mapping out the viewing pattern of an individual.

This data can help identify blind spots or areas of confusion (when perhaps an individual has spent a longer than average amount of time on a particular area), as elements can attract attention well, but fail to convey the intended message or function effectively. Clarifying these issues will be crucial in enhancing users’ overall experience.

2CV Experience: we regularly test our client’s copy for readability and comprehension. Sometimes we find that while initially, one version appears to have better engagement (based on the higher average dwell time), further analysis of the gaze plot and viewing order in fact shows the opposite—that users were spending more time trying to decipher information due to the confusing layout that’s misaligned with our typical reading patterns.

Real-time data

The fact that eye-tracking data is shown live, in real-time, provides an added benefit for both researchers moderating the studies, as well as designers who are observing behind the scenes. 

Live feedback on what users noticed (or missed) allows researchers to ask better follow-up questions during the subsequent interview, rather than relying solely on participant recall.

For designers, viewing live eye-tracking data enriches the observation experience, further cementing the user’s perspective in their minds. Eye-tracking data can even be used to build predictive models that will understand user preferences and anticipate behaviour over time, bringing brands and designers closer to their users.

Is eyetracking all I need?   

Not enough on its own

While eye-tracking provides very valuable data, it’s not the only thing needed to fully diagnose consumer experience.  

The human eye captures between 30 and 60 frames of visual information per second. However, only a fraction of that information is retained and committed to memory due to the limited capacity of our working memory. Therefore, even when eye-tracking data shows that elements are seen, it does not always translate into comprehension.

2CV Experience: when unboxing hardware, a key call to action was being disregarded. Despite occupying an important place on the setup instructions (at the top of the page), with our eye-tracking data showing it was observed, it was only through follow-up interviews that we ascertained that participants simply did not comprehend the instructions, and ignored them.

Research in the right environment 

Eye-tracking can feel intrusive to participants as they are required to wear special glasses with cameras attached. Participants may alter behaviour, knowing that their actions are recorded and scrutinised. They can be spending more time reading instructions, or scanning past certain information to complete tasks quicker, as they are feeling self-conscious. These factors can introduce bias, which is why partnering with a research team proficient in both UX and eye-tracking methodologies is crucial.

For example, when 2CV conducts UX research, we prioritise participant comfort and ease right from the outset; moderators play a critical role as they need to pay attention to participant’s behaviour and gaze pattern, as well as asking the right questions during the follow-up interview to uncover reasons behind that behaviour. Only through this comprehensive approach will the data yield true and powerful insights to enhance customer satisfaction.

A potential value-add to level-up insights

While eye-tracking is a valuable tool for understanding user behaviour and addressing usability issues, it’s important to remember that eye-tracking focuses on visual attention. However, user experience is quite multi-dimensional and involves interactions and emotions, as well as past product experience.

To gain a comprehensive understanding of user actions and behaviours, partnering with an experienced research team is therefore essential. Holistic understanding serves as the foundation for developing effective strategies to improve the overall user experience across products.

For further insights into how our proficiency in eye-tracking and UX research can elevate your user experience, reach out to us at singapore@2cv.com

This article was first published in the Q1 2024 edition of Asia Research Media

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