Home > eyetracking, heatmaps, shopping cart abandonment, usability > Eyetracking, heatmapping and your website

Eyetracking, heatmapping and your website

What is eyetracking? Heatmapping? Why should you care?

For website creators its close to the gold standard for learning how users actually use your website. I attended an Eyetracking Demonstration led by Dr. Kathryn Summers, University of Baltimore & Michael Summmers, Summers Consulting, Inc. in collaboration with Nick Boswell, Tobii Technology and GSA’s Web Manager University, which produced the July 2007 event.

Eyetracking follows a user’s eyes as they try to accomplish a specific task on your website. During the presentation, Michael Summers explained that measuring exactly where user’s eyeballs look on a page – as well as where they do not look – can be vital for website managers. Web managers need to know, for example, to not put anything in the upper right corner – it won’t be seen. We’ve become conditioned to expect advertising there and our eyes avoid looking at that area.

We watched users look for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) phone number on USA.gov. We could see from eyetracking data – represented as red lines and dots – that users were scanning furiously, choosing many paths throughout the website, making false starts, but finally completing the task. Their difficulties indicated that users needed more help to be able to accomplish this task easily. People who are in a disaster and looking for FEMA’s phone number are likely to be impatient and need to find this information as quickly as possible. One can see the logic in performing these tests as you can literally see the information through another’s eyes.

Heatmaps were created at the end of each user’s eyetracking tests. Generally heatmaps demonstrate what areas of the webpage are viewed most, and where user’s eyes lingered the longest (indicating areas of most interest). Heatmaps can generated in other ways – by clickthroughs on the links within a page – but this blog post is not about those types of heatmaps.

Rules of thumb that I learned from this demo:

I asked if there was eyetracking data that tracks shopping cart abandonment. Well – no. This research is proprietary and in high demand. Most ecommerce based organizations are highly interested in what factors lead to shopping cart abandonment, and conversely, conversion rates – how to convert users into buyers. Jakob Hencke, of Tobii Technology, said that the  Tobii forum is a good place to research that information. Google’s website optimizer forum may be a good resource too.


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