The web is a tough place to sell services. Results are quite easily measured and people will only buy things that are clearly worth their money.

Can eye-tracking stand that test?

Basically, eye-tracking technology is a neat way to figure out how your customers want your page to look like.

At least theoretically, such technology can increase both company profits and customer satisfaction. Costs must be reasonable, data reliable and interpretation correct, but the potential for tasty ROI is clearly out there.

People can only click on things that they actually see i.e., find with their eyes. It can be a costly mistake to assume your important call to action or message is there for users' eyes without actually testing it.

Or to put in positive terms - there’s a lot to be gained by allocating your priority content to visually most valuable areas.

A useful real life example to illustrate and verify that point is a study Realeyes and Communicator Corp did on one Christmas campaign email.

The study (pdf) concluded that eye-tracking data could predict where people are going to click in the actual email campaign with over 95% accuracy.

The same logic applies to web pages with providing a relevant example with its recent redesign.

A large team within was working to create important content, but web analytics revealed that only very few people actually got that content.

An eye-tracking study on the page revealed that all this important information was displayed behind a menu that didn’t get any visual attention. It came out that click-throughs were low just because people were not really given the chance to click on it.

A much tougher question than whether eye-tracking data has any value is how to actually extract value from this data.

Eye-tracking by itself, most often, does not automatically give solutions. It will take a skillful person to interpret the data and draw the right conclusions.

Whether that person is an outsourced consultant or an in-house designer does not really matter. What does is that eye-tracking brings objective reality to debates often based only on opinions. 

Quantitative results can be delivered in intuitive format and quickly understood by different stakeholders in front-end design. Consequent faster and more rational design decisions can yield a very hefty return for the cost that eye-tracking studies go for these days.

Eye-tracking is clearly breaking out of the labs and will soon overcome the sort of mysticism that still surrounds it.

The bottom line is that eye-tracking is just a good tool to make sure real user needs are served by front-end design and aligned with business goals of any online organisation.

Mihkel Jäätma is co-founder of Realeyes.

Mihkel Jäätma

Published 31 January, 2008 by Mihkel Jäätma

6 more posts from this author

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Comments (2)



This research seems pretty screwy. I downloaded the pdf and on the heatmap the results clearly show that people were not clicking where they looked the most.

The heatmap shows that most people looked at the button that says Jewellery, but clicked on the picture of the girl, which they didn't look at as much.

(I'm assuming red means the most eyeballs.)

Yet the charts say the clicks and the views were perfectly correlated.

Either I'm missing something, there's a mistake in the printing and graphics or it's bad research.

PS If you're going to use images to prevent robot subs please make sure they are actually readable.

I've had to reload this page 6 times before I can see something that's understandable.

over 10 years ago

Mihkel Jäätma

Mihkel Jäätma, Founding Partner at Realeyes

Hey Mark!

The point You're missing and perhaps doesn't come across clearly enough from this study is that the two data sets compared were:

1. Eye fixations of 55 people on the email: around 2000 eye fixations in total
2. Mouse clicks from actual email campaign: close to 30 000 in this case

The mouse clicks showed on heatmap image are only the clicks from 55 people who did the eye-tracking test. So in that sense you should imagine how this heatmap would look like with a 30 000 mouse clicks overlay from actual campaign.

Anyway, definitely looking forward to do more of this stuff to confirm/reject the findings we took away from this particular email.

First questions on my mind:

- This is a very image intensive email: would the relation hold also in text based emails?

- There's a strong 'long email' effect: people looked and clicked very much on the top area of the email. What if the whole email was small enough to fit the screen?

Thanks for the comment, debates are good!

over 10 years ago

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