Besides learning more about your own area of expertise, part of going to conferences like Search Engine Strategies (SES) is learning new technologies. For those of you who have not had the pleasure to meet Da Li Social’s own Kim Krause Berg and what she does with regards to Usability (UX), you are missing out. At SES New York, Kim was asked at the last minute to cover for Shari Thurow on the subject of Eye Tracking.
UX, for those of you who do not know, is the industry abbreviation for usability and while I didn’t know it at the time, it may be one of the more essential skills needed in industry.
What is Usability
“The effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which users can achieve tasks in a particular environment of a product. High usability means a system is: easy to learn and remember; efficient, visually pleasing and fun to use; and quick to recover from errors.” — Dictionary.com
Now, on to Eye tracking which is defined as,
“…is the process of measuring either the point of gaze (“where we are looking”) or the motion of an eye relative to the head. An eye tracker is a device for measuring eye positions and eye movements. Eye trackers are used in research on the visual system, in psychology, in cognitive linguistics and in product design.” — Wikipedia.com
Moderated by Kate Kaye, Senior Editor, Clickz News, the Placement Matters: How Eye Tracking Helps Improve Display Advertising session featured speakers, Kim Krause Berg, SEO/UX/IA, Cre8pc.com, SEO/UX Manager, Da Li Social Integrated Marketing and Leslie Chacon, Founder, User First. The session began as all do with the audience booting up their respective devices and logging on to the Wi-Fi, which on this day was barely crawling.
First up is Kim who right away asks us, “Why should we care about Eye tracking?” Well for starters
Eye tracking reveals
- Where do people look?
- What people don’t look at?
- How people separate or “chunk” information on the screen
- Sequence in which people look at the page
Product developers can’t do their own Eye tracking since they already know how to use their product. What Eye tracking does do however is allow us to get the point of view of the common user. Eye tracking measures where someone is looking on the page, why and how long.
How do they do this? Well for one thing, it’s based on the dilation of the eye. An eye that dilates while looking at one specific area shows the trust that person have in the area. The more times they come back to the same area, the more trust they have in it. We all use peripheral vision to see things, so it is possible to be staring at one thing and be paying attention to something else nearby.
Kim gave an example from a case that Bryan Eisenberg told her about where an Eye tracking study focused on both men and women looking at a photo of a male baseball player. Whereas the women focused mostly on the face and the upper chest, men focused on the head and then lower extremities. Bryan suggested it was a male competition thing but more studies are needed to truly understand why men and women look at photos differently.
What do people look at most often? Images attract out attention. They may be pleasing to the eye. Why do you think that places like Amazon and eBay show us pictures? Because we want to see what we are buying. For SEO’s, images placed inside news stories are often ranked better in news searches.
People (in most countries) read Left to Right and Top to Bottom (the “F” pattern). If you want to get their attention then you have to know where to put your ads. Most people either ignore or just avoid stock images and large images. They want change, but keep it simple.
Next up is Leslie Chacon. This whole time while Kim was talking anyone in the audience could not help but notice the rather larger white monitor to Leslie’s left. As if she was reading my mind she starts by telling us it’s an eye tracker that has a series of cameras around the frame of the monitor that tracks your eye.
For those of you who didn’t know, Eyetracking has been around since the 1800s. There are reports of experiments as early as 1870. It was only in the 1950’s, when the military started getting serious about it, that it got more attention. But it’s only recently it’s become available for commercial use.
In order to track eye movements, infrared lights track your eyes. In order to be successful at this, you need to ask questions and know what kinds of questions to ask.
Each different task or answer to a question returns a different result. People do notice all the ads they see, most of the time they don’t recollect them. Make sure you follow up with a “did you notice the ad?” with your testers. Most people will say no but the answer, as Eye tracking shows, is actually yes. Your mind will discard what’s not relevant. The word “Free”, however, catches the eye.
Does banner blindness exist? Absolutely. Is it something you should be scared of? No. The average human can only see 2 degrees of our visual field in detail at any particular time. What works with images are cleavage, human faces, and plain text.
Don’t distract people. Your ad will get more attention the more it looks like the rest of the page. A lot of users are turned off by ads that don’t belong, for example, a Sprint ad in an article about iPhones.
Make sure you are using analytics to both optimize and heighten your user experience data. One last note, Eye tracking doesn’t work so well on people with droopy eyes, long eyelashes or even Asians. In order for it work properly the cameras must each be able to see the eye from every angle.