Reflecting on Eye-tracking

December 10, 2012

We have used eye-tracking in most of our studies in NELL. Some data are really interesting, in other projects we didn’t learn as much. Why is that? Here are some ideas what to watch out for when planning an eye-tracking study.

  • Eye-tracking data needs to be combined with other data sources. We found that in many cases the eye-tracking data could be interpreted in a meaningful way only when looking at interview responses of that person at the same time. Unless tasks are short, unambiguous and deterministic, the observed gaze behaviour may have a variety of reasons.
  • Eye-tracking helps to improve design. Did users look at that image? How long did it take them to notice the button? What attracted their attention first? These are questions that eye-tracking can answer and that may inform design decisions.
  • Eye-tracking may be more effective in later stages of the design process. Once you have a full mock-up quantitative analysis of gaze behaviour, heatmaps, etc. can be very informative. In contrast, wireframes or other early prototypes are probably better evaluated with qualitative feedback. For example, we explored which type of information learners would use when looking for help from a peer. We created three different mock-ups of the PeerFinder component and compared both the eye-tracking results as well as their preferences.
scanpath of PeerFinder

scanpath of PeerFinder, a component developed for a Learning Management System

After all, User Experience is really all about selecting the right methods at the right time for the given target group and given tasks. I frequently tell my students that they have to be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a method in a given situation. Eye-tracking is one of many data collection methods. It may be used in a number of different ways.

This blog gives a good overview of the advantages and disadvantages of eye-tracking: The eye is the mirror to the soul? What does eye-tracking research tell us?


Gazing over your CV

April 23, 2012

Stephan Weibelzahl's LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn profile: Is your resume usability tested?

At first glance, this has nothing to do with e-Learning or UX, but I came across this study that illustrates what we can and cannot learn from eye-tracking. “Keeping an eye on recruiter behavior” explores what recruiters may focus on when browsing your CV. It doesn’t really come as a surprise that recruiters spent little time with each CV. On average, it took them just 6 seconds to read a resume. Accordingly, their main focus was on the key facts, i.e., name, current position, previous position and the respective dates. Other parts of the CV were merely scanned for keywords.

So, next time you write or revise your CV, think of it as a usability design task. What would make it as easy as possible for the user, i.e., the recruiter, to pick up the message you want to get across? How can you get them to read beyond the name of your previous company? In fact, I would argue that the same principles as for website design apply: strive for simplicity, use effective writing, use white space effectively, provide visual structure, highlight important information, avoid distracting graphics, etc.

Taking this idea even further, consider to do usability testing on your resume. Test early and test often. Remember, just five users will help to identify more than 80% of the issues.

Nell lab and talk We had another  fantastic dot conf  last week and met lots of great people and heard some interesting talks ~ I for one, will never look at My Little Pony in the same way again:-)

For those of you who missed our Deep Dive, you can access   the  presentation by clicking the link below:

The eYe Factor; how to improve your website through eye-tracking

Brought to you my Prezzi, a great on-line presentation tool.

Yes it’s back!  Due to popular demand the dot conf will be running for a second year on Thursday 2 June in NCI.   We had great fun last year and at the same time managed to learn a useful thing or two along the way.  And once again, the team in NELL are delighted to presenting a deep dive session entitled:

The eYe Factor; how to improve your website through eye-tracking

Why come to this event?

Did you know? Vision dominates and uses 50 per cent of the brain’s cerebral cortex, which plays  a key part in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness

Eye-tracking is based on the Eye-mind hypothesis  that says that people look at what they are thinking about.    Eye-tracking data is a useful part of UX research in that it allows us to better explain elements of people’s behaviour when they are engaging with on-line applications.

So come along and find out more about how eye-tracking works and what  lessons we have learned here in NELL and how these can be used to improve your own designs. 

But be warned! this is a participatory event  – you might just become part of the show…

A special kind of test

January 31, 2011

Every person, regardless of whatever different abilities they may have, can contribute, can be a source of joy, can beam with pride and love.”
Eunice Kennedy Shriverlogo special olympics


We were delighted that students of  Ph.D. in Technology Enhanced Learning worked with Special Olympics Ireland  to undertake user experience research on the Special Olympics website.  The aim of the research was to find out if the website encourages users to donate to Special Olympics and/or become volunteers with the association. 

Research involved a pre-test questionnaire, an ethnographical observation including eye-tracking and a post-test interview.   Testing was conducted here in the National E-Learning Laboratory and took place Nov to Dec 2010.

Banner Blindness:

We observed one very interesting pattern through data analysis. On the homepage of the website, there is a very prominent red ‘Donate Now’ Button, please see image below.   However, eye-tracking data shows us that this button appeared to be somewhat “invisible” to testers. This is an interesting take on what Jacob Neilson calls banner blindness; that is that users don’t like looking at anything they think might be an advertisement, no matter how obvious it is.

eye-track SO

All of us here in NCI congratulate the good folks at Special Olympics Ireland on the great job they are doing and wish them all best in the future! 

For more information on this research please contact:

Bernie O’Driscoll, eMarketing Manager, Special Olympics Ireland. Bernie.O’

Special Olympics Ireland are delighted with the user experience research undertaken by the students of the Ph.D in Technology Enhanced Learning at the NCI. The results of this research have provided us with valuable insights into how users navigate on and will guide future developments on the website, with a special focus on fundraising and volunteer recruitment. As a charitable organisation, we appreciate the invaluable support of NCI & its fantastic National eLearning Laboratory.
Bernie O’Driscoll at Special Olympics Ireland