Eyetracking studies ‘fascinating and worrying’

Anyone who has ever been witness to an eye-tracking study can attest that the process is fascinating.

Travolution experienced the power of eye-tracking first hand when researching our September Generations edition, which explored the ways different age groups interact with online travel sites.

Among the most interesting findings to come out of our eye-tracking study (conducted by London-based research firm Foviance) were that the older generations do not recognise the difference between branded and affiliate websites and enter bizarre strings of keywords, expecting the more they type, the better the results will be.

By contrast, the younger age group keeps search terms to a minimum and avoids advertising.

New analysis of the pros and cons of eye-tracking technology, conducted by Chris Averill, managing director of CADInteractive, concludes the results of eye-tracking research are both “fascinating and worrying”.

One of the biggest problems with eye-tracking technology is that it does not pick up peripheral vision, but rather registers what is directly in front of the eye. To illustrate his finding, Averill uses the example of a linked title and a corresponding image that is set off to the side. The majority of users will read the title and click on the image.

But if you relied on eye-tracking alone, it would appear that the image is ignored and the title is the most important element. Interestingly (or frustratingly for the researcher), relying on a click-map analysis can give the reverse results.

The point is, according to Averill: “Relying on eye-tracking alone will lead to unnecessary interface changes being implemented and the real problems going undetected”. He adds: “Eye-tracking offers a powerful insight into user behaviour. However, it is only a tool that fits well with other usability research services.”

Having conducted reams of research (qualitative, quantitative, et al), Travolution knows there are many ways to skin a cat…or find out just how the next generation will buy travel online.

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