Last week and this week I learned a lot (whole lots) on eye-tracking and how to read the results from such equipment. I even learned how eyes focus and move which helps understand reading the “gaze plots” the eye-tracking software generates. But if I must say putting it a bit more basically than my text-book did; It’s sort of a productive version of connect the dots. Each time you stop and look at a point on the screen you are generating a dot (a fixation point if you want to use the jargon) on the map the software generates. Each dot is numbered in order of creation, and is often (not always) sized based on how long you looked at that point (bigger = more time spent). Each dot is connection by lines and the entire mess of dots and lines forms a pattern which when overlaid on an image of the website / app screen shows the reader exactly where the test participant was looking, when, and for how long. That just screams useful information to me; not to mention being a bit techno creepy mind reading-ish…then again mind reading would certainly help to develop usable designs wouldn’t it.
Heat maps, fixation cluster charts, opacity plots, gaze point plots / maps, participant video & audio recordings, moderator comments & tasks. No matter how you look at it eye-tracking studies generate mountains of data to go through. These mountains are useful in so many ways to your usability study…just don’t get caught in a land slide. Develop a good file naming & organizational system, and then stick to it no matter what. You don’t want to realize half way through you study that you’ve mixed up the videos from one participant with the gaze point maps from another…or worse yet have nothing match up.
Either way if you get the chance to preview or better yet use a eye-tracking system for anything jump at it. Even just seeing one in action may give you ideas on how to improve your next usability study.
Have fun connecting the dots between participant data and usable design.