Benefits of eye tracking in website development

Benefits of eye tracking in website development
Benefits of eye tracking in website development

When it comes to determining the best possible layout for a webpage, designers may have a valuable new tool in eye-tracking technology. With eye-tracking technology becoming more commercially available and less expensive as it improves, companies are turning to gaze tracking for premium website design and search engine optimization.
Google has done extensive research on the value of eye-tracking in this particular field, and other companies, such as SEOmoz, have also used eye-tracking and Google to study the advantages that eye-tracking can have on a user’s experience. This can help website developers create a page that is more streamlined, less confusing, and ultimately more pleasing on the eye. More than that, however, it can also show the developers what users are–and, more importantly, are not–looking at, making it possible for them to move, edit, or completely eliminate content that is receiving less attention than they wanted it to.

This technique has demonstrated some already-well-known facts about web design, such as the advantage of navigational bars at the top of the page, but it has also given us some interesting insights onto some less obvious tactics. Graphics, for example, are less effective than many people believe they are, and the text receives far more attention from users looking for information. There is actually a list of twelve website tactics one company developed after running an eye-tracking study on news sites.

Though this study was tied to a very specific kind of website, these tactics seem to be supported by studies run by Google and SEOmoz as well. Using Google, SEOmoz ran a study on five different types of searches to determine where users were most drawn to on a page. Overall, the text URL links received more attention than photos and videos that were irrelevant to the users’ desired results. However, this study also showed that Google, by moving away from text-only plain listings to incorporate photos, videos, maps, and local listings into the mix, has had an impact on the information users are coming away with. With eye-tracking, Google can better determine what kind of search results will yield the best possible outcome for themselves, their users, and the websites they cater to.

In fact, the use of eye-tracking as a means of fine-tuning website and search engine development has gotten enough attention to merit companies being built up around that concept. Etre, a London-based company that focuses on website usability, offers eye-tracking services to help other companies determine what is and is not working on their personal websites. As this technology continues to improve in accessibility and price, I’m sure we will start seeing more companies like Etre and more studies like those done by Google and SEOmoz popping up. Though this research is not infallible, it is a huge step in understanding how developers can create better, more efficient web pages.