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Eyetracking: How to Watch the Gap Between the Clicks (and Why)

Charles Costa

Information overload is becoming an epidemic for web users across the globe. When users visit your website or use your app, you only have a few seconds before users decide to stay or bounce.

Traditional analytics can be useful for getting a macro overview of your site metrics, however when you're building out a new design or making changes, you need a way to get inside the mind of your users.

Many web development professionals turn to heatmaps and mouse tracking for detailed insights as it's a relatively simple way to gather insights about your website. For those times you need to take your research to the next level, eyetracking (also known as gaze interaction) is the tool for you.

Eyetracking is Hard. Why Bother?

Complex Projects

Travel websites are a perfect eye tracking use case because of the website complexities. Airfare in particular is a great fit for this tool because customers have an endless amount of possibilities for planning their trip.

Kayak eyetracking software

As shown by a video from Matchic Labs Eye Tracking, there's plenty of activity which occurs without the measurable click of a mouse or tap of a screen. If you're handling a project with a complex interface or situations where users need to process large amounts of information, eye tracking is essential for your success.


While heatmaps and mouse-tracking are viable solutions for most e-Commerce settings, there are times where companies need to take their research to the next level. As Rick Nguyen, the founder of ad testing firm Spot Trender pointed out in an interview.

While eyetracking be can be more expensive than traditional UX testing methods, like click tracking or mouse tracking, eyetracking can significantly improve your sales. For instance, if you have a site selling hats, you would probably want users to focus on the hat rather than the shirt the model is wearing.

Online Advertising

Advertising is all about invoking an emotional reaction from the viewer. As with eCommerce, eyetracking enables you to to see how users are reacting to your banners or video ads.

Eyetracking reports from three sites

Source:Nielsen Norman Group

Source:Nielsen Norman Group

Bidding on competitive keywords can easily burn a hole in your wallet. Bidding on niche keywords can help to reduce your burn rates, but unless you have data on user reactions, you'll be following the "spray and pray" method of video production.

Is DIY Eyetracking an Option?

While this technology might seem limited to companies with six figure budgets (the equipment alone can cost $9,000-$20,000 upwards), you can integrate eyetracking into your projects for as little as a couple hundred dollars.

If you're willing to get your hands dirty, you can always DIY an eyetracking solution for a couple hundred dollars.

DIY an eyetracking solution

Instructables: A DIY eyetracking solution (link).

To gather insights around your projects, PyGaze is worth exploring. For Python developers, the system should be fairly easy to implement. Be warned that if you aren't a developer, or if you don't have one on hand, then this solution isn't for you. PyGaze is a complex tool which has a low price point (free), however it requires hours to setup.

If you're looking to immediately get started with eyetracking, Gazepoint offers a variety of solutions to fit a variety of needs.

Best Practices

Determining Your Sample Size

As with any usability testing, you need to ensure that you're surveying enough users for accurate results. You can figure out a precise amount using the Holm-Bonferroni method, however it's a bit difficult to grasp unless you're a statistician. When doing your tests, you should aim for 95% accuracy. If you have a smaller budget or less time for testing, you can get away with as little as 80% accuracy.

If you want to spare yourself from headaches, you can always use a sample size calculator to determine the amount of people you should test.

Don't Neglect Privacy

As shown by the backlash against surveillance programs, the general public doesn't like to have their images kept in digital archives for analysis. While getting users to participate in an eyetracking study can be difficult, you can make participation palatable by not storing facial images when possible.

Instead, just store the raw tracking recording and pair it with high level demographic data. Sometimes logging facial images might be necessary, such as for analyzing emotion. In these cases you should be transparent about the information is used and stored.

Not The Holy Grail

Eyetracking can provide essential insights for your projects, however it isn't a replacement for other testing methods. It also isn't going to instantly uncover insights you didn't have before.

Unless you do the tests properly, eyetracking can leave you worse off than using less complex methods. Before performing these tests, you should familiarize yourself with the process. Once that's done, you should run a few practice tests before using it on live studies.

Remember that you'll still need to use other research to ensure you're getting the full perspective on your users experiences.