Eye tracking is totally fascinating to me, from the how-to to the findings. I was surprised to find out that eye tracking in one form or another has been around for more than 100 years.
One of our articles Eye-Tracking Technology: An Introduction was a nice primer for the “how-to”s, and a great teaser for the possible future applications for eye-tracking technology and data. However, two other readings had me captivated. As a former newspaper journalist, I was interested, but not so surprised, by the findings in “Eyetracking the News: A Study of Print and Online Reading”. The entry points for reading print news are headlines and photos, while the entry points online are navigation. Visuals and color increased viewing of elements like briefs and teasers, all not so aha findings, but findings that had me once again relating them to my teaching experiences. Up until a couple of years ago, high school students took two versions of the FCAT — the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) version and the Norm-Referenced Test (NRT) version. The SSS version, because it was funded and implemented at the state level, was always delivered in large chunks of text and murky graphics in black and white. The NRT version always included color and detailed and fun graphics because it was funded and implemented nationally. Students, without exception in the ones I’ve dealt with, overwhelmingly prefer the NRT, and specifically pointed to the colorful and interesting presentation. In fact, some used to beg to take that test and not the other.
The white paper by Mediative, Eye Tracking and Click Mapping Google Places, made a great case for making a significant investment in getting to the top of a Google Places search, and applied findings related to the Golden Triangle from similar Google search studies. The top three or four places received the most gazes and clicks, and subjects were also attracted to the images and social signals added to the top listings. I particularly liked the fictitious scenario with which subjects were presented: road trip that included a number of stops along the way to hunt for tattoo parlors. (In fact, I kept trying to add my own story to go with it. Was this a drunken road trip specifically for tattoos? Was there a dare or lost bet involved? The eye gazes at the first tattoo parlor location in London, Ontario, were followed by a significant number of gazes at Chaucer’s Pub, which supports this theory of mine, but I wanted to know more.)
Questions for this week: Given the findings of this white paper, how much should organizations depend on eye-tracking studies to guide their presentation of information? And on more of a personal note, if you were looking for a tattoo parlor in a strange city, would you stop looking beyond the first three or four listed on your search? (I’m an information junkie and would probably see all the options available to me before making a choice. Am I the only one?)