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SXSW Interactive Day 2: Eye Tracking

by Ricky Lam on March 15, 2011

evaluation of eyetracking after an usability test

Image via Wikipedia

Day 2 at SXSW started with a session on user testing using Eye Tracking. A method of testing that was once thought to be overly expensive (and awkward for users), eye tracking has taken significant steps forward technologically to become a somewhat reasonable proposition for companies that are looking for alternatives when determining the usability of their products.

The panelists began by briefly describing eye tracking, and how various companies use it to gain insight as to where users might spend the most amount of time looking. Eye tracking requires a user to complete a series of tasks and they are often given a device that tracks where their eye looks on screen, as well as when they are focusing and also when a user is blinking. The testing is often done to determine whether certain elements on a page attract a user right away and also to determine if the navigation on a page is acceptable. The panelists went through a list of pros and cons for eye tracking and also discussed recent technology advancements that allow for a more reasonably priced solution. Specially, they talked about the use of webcams for eye tracking and talked about companies such as Gazehawk and Youeye.

The panelists also talked about some potential pros and cons for three other popular testing methods – think aloud, retrospective think aloud and debriefing. For those unfamiliar with these testing methods, think aloud is a testing method in which the user speaks exactly what they are thinking as they are in the process of completing whatever task is asked of them. Retrospective Think Aloud is similar to think aloud, only the user says what they were thinking afterwards. Debriefing would require the tester to answer questions pose to them after the task has been completed. When discussing all possible testing methods it became apparent that there is not one singular test that a company can run to generate an entirely accurate result. A very informative session to start off my day.

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Stoddard March 15, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Eye tracking sounds intense and a little unpleasant, like something out of a dystopian novel.

WrigleyF March 15, 2011 at 11:01 AM

I’ve long believed that no one test can provide all the answers. That’s why it’s so important to vary your testing methods.

Randy5 March 15, 2011 at 11:02 AM

Think aloud sounds helpful–it gives you unfiltered thinking, like a word association test. You just need honest participants and skilled analysts.

Rusher June 7, 2011 at 8:54 AM

I think simple eye recognition software might be more practical than eye tracking programs.

Texas2Step August 29, 2011 at 6:32 AM

For me, a finger scanner would be much more comfortable than an eye scanner.

OhDonna October 26, 2011 at 6:11 AM

Couldn’t eye scanning and finger scanning security devices pose major threats to privacy? Or is worrying about privacy a thing of the past now?

PotsNPans March 6, 2012 at 7:29 AM

Eye tracking brings new meaning to the phrase, “for your eyes only.”

Identical twins wouldn’t be able to pass for one another with their eyes, right?

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