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Why Eye-Tracking?

Eye-tracking is a powerful tool for evaluating the user experience, whether the user experience involves answering a survey, navigating a website, or driving a car! Eye-tracking provides objective physiological data to help you develop materials and systems that are optimized for the task at hand. By monitoring eye movements, researchers can objectively see how study participants interact with a stimulus.

This can be helpful for answering questions like:

Contact-icon

Do users notice the Contact Us feature on my survey?

Where-they-look

Where do users look first when they view my website? Where do they look next?

Design-A-B

Is design A processed differently than design B?

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Westat's Approach

Data on the user experience often comes from self-reported feedback from study participants. Eye-tracking allows researchers to observe for themselves what participants pay attention to.

Eye-tracking can reveal where people look, but not what they perceive. Therefore, Westat’s approach combines quantitative eye-tracking data and qualitative feedback to provide a complete picture of how people interact with study materials.

Collecting eye-tracking data is not as difficult as it might seem!

With a little bit of training and practice, eye-tracking hardware and software can be set up easily.

There are two common types of eye-trackers – glasses-based equipment and remote equipment.

Eye-Tracking glasses

  • Worn by the users.
  • Good for eye-tracking in real world environments where the user may be mobile, or looking at a stimulus that is not on a screen like a paper document.

Remote eye-trackers

  • Rest in front of the user and track their eye-movemnent from a distance.
  • User does not have to wear anything but they have to remain largely stationary.
  • Optimized for eye-tracking on screens.

Westat currently owns three sets of eye-tracking equipment – two types of glasses and one remote tracker.

Tobii Pro Glasses 2

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Tobii Pro X2-30 Eye Tracker

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Dikablis Glasses 3 + Vehicle Testing Kit (VTK)

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Analyzing eye-tracking data

Eye-tracking equipment typically captures and analyzes two types of eye-movements: fixations and saccades.

Most eye-tracking data analysis focuses on fixations, which are instances of the eye dwelling in one location for a set amount of time (usually a minimum of 1/10 of one second). Fixation location, count and duration are all useful indicators of attention. Longer and more fixations are associated with deeper cognitive processing. Saccades are instances of eye movements in between fixations. Longer saccades indicate that the eye is moving widely from one place to the next (like watching a tennis match); shorter saccades indicate that attention is staying focused more narrowly (like reading).

Eye-tracking data can be analyzed both visually and quantitatively.

Heat Maps

Summarize where people spend most of their time fixating on a stimulus. ‘Hotter’ colors represent more fixations than colder, or no colors. Heat maps summarize the behavior of one individual or many. The example below shows a heat map for the relative fixation duration of about 50 people who viewed a paper copy of a fictitious drug ad.


Gaze Plots

Summarize where people spend most of their time fixating on a stimulus. ‘Hotter’ colors represent more fixations than colder, or no colors. Heat maps summarize the behavior of one individual or many. The example below shows a heat map for the relative fixation duration of about 50 people who viewed a paper copy of a fictitious drug ad.

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Quantifying eye-tracking data

In addition to creating compelling visualizations, eye-tracking data can be analyzed quantitatively for more precise evaluations and comparisons between groups. Fixation data can be used to measure and compare numerous outcomes related to attention. For example - the total number of fixations, the total fixation duration, the time to first fixation, the number ‘visits’ to an Area Of Interest (AOI), etc. With the appropriate experimental design, this information can be very powerful for comparing user attention to different visual designs.

While eye-tracking allows researchers to observe what people pay attention to, it does not inherently tell you why they behave the way that they do, or what their thoughts are. Therefore it’s common to follow eye-tracking data collection with a debriefing interview to collect qualitative information to help explain the behaviors.

Our Experience & Capabilites

Galesic, M., and Yan, T. (2010). In Social Research and the Internet: Advances in Applied Methods and New Research Strategies, edited by M. Das, P. Ester, L. Kaczmirek, and P. Mohler, Chapter 14, Taylor & Francis Publishing Group (pp 349-370).

Höhne, J.K., Lenzner, T., Neuert, C., and Yan, T. (2021). Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology, 9, 25-50. doi: 10.1093/jssam/smz028.

Höhne, J.K., and Yan, T. (2020). International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 23(3), 347-353. doi: 10.1080/13645579.2019.1696087.

Galesic, M., and Yan, T. (2010). In Social Research and the Internet: Advances in Applied Methods and New Research Strategies, edited by M. Das, P. Ester, L. Kaczmirek, and P. Mohler, Chapter 14, Taylor & Francis Publishing Group (pp 349-370).

Issues & Considerations


equipment

Equipment & Environment

Summarize where people spend most of their time fixating on a stimulus. ‘Hotter’ colors represent more fixations than colder, or no colors. Heat maps summarize the behavior of one individual or many. The example below shows a heat map for the relative fixation duration of about 50 people who viewed a paper copy of a fictitious drug ad.


Individual Factors

Summarize where people spend most of their time fixating on a stimulus. ‘Hotter’ colors represent more fixations than colder, or no colors. Heat maps summarize the behavior of one individual or many. The example below shows a heat map for the relative fixation duration of about 50 people who viewed a paper copy of a fictitious drug ad.


Natural Behavior

Summarize where people spend most of their time fixating on a stimulus. ‘Hotter’ colors represent more fixations than colder, or no colors. Heat maps summarize the behavior of one individual or many. The example below shows a heat map for the relative fixation duration of about 50 people who viewed a paper copy of a fictitious drug ad.