Eyetracking is a research tool that can track the motion of an eye or measure where is the point the participant looks at (point of gaze).
Those reflections can be captured by the tracker cameras and provide the data that can be visualized as a heatmap, focus map, gaze plots and more.
Eyetracking studies began in the 1870s. The first eye tracker was built by Edmund Huey who used a contact lens with an aluminum pointer and a hole for the pupil. The first non-intrusive eye tracker that used beams of light instead of a physical pointer was constructed by Guy Thomas Buswell in 1937. In the 1980s researchers started to use eye tracking in the testing related to human-computer interaction.
Representations can be whether animated or static. Both of them show the visual behaviour with focus spots complemented by small paths that indicate saccade movements of the eye. Static representations require a higher expertise level to be able to interpret the results.
Are one of the most popular static representations. All the focus spots and saccade paths are divided into “hot” areas with higher density that shows where participants focused their gaze more frequently and “cold” zones where the density is lower.
Are quite similar to heat maps and illustrate the focus zones by indicating brightly the most attention-grabbing objects over the rest of the dark screen.
Are showing clearly the most popular areas in contrast with the less attended areas that are darkened.
Can show the participant’s journey on a web page in a few minutes. On the image below bubbles reflect the eye fixations and the bubble size shows the amount of time a person looked at this particular spot on the screen.
First of all, it gives you insights into the participant's sub-conscious behaviour. It also helps you to figure out which UI elements on the screen people don’t look at, and what UI elements distract people’s attention. Moreover, it can show which details are attractive and which are unnecessary, as well as how the participants accomplish their goals within the system.
Of course, there are some disadvantages of eye-tracking method. The most important one is that this kind of testing is very expensive: around $10 000 for the whole eye-tracking system. It requires lots of equipment, special training and can be challenging to organize. Finally, eye-tracking doesn’t take into account the peripheral vision that is considered for 98% of all our visual area. It is proven that we can see lots of interface elements but just don’t directly look at them.