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 Walmart.com providing a relevant example with its recent redesign.

A large team within Walmart.com 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.