Eye tracking, what it is and how it is applied in web marketing

Eye tracking is a process that monitors eye movements to determine where a subject is looking at any given moment. It is a scientific methodology that helps to understand the intuitions of the human mind.

The eyes allow us to explore, learn and gather information from the surrounding reality, thus influencing our decisions and actions. For this reason, measuring visual attention objectively, through eye tracking techniques, allows us to study human behavior .

The first studies on eye movement tracking date back to the late nineteenth century, but during the twentieth century they specifically concern the medical and academic fields. Starting from the new millennium, however, they also affect the world of entrepreneurship and marketing which have made it a real tool for analyzing purchasing behavior .

In 2006 , Jakob Nielsen , a Dutch researcher, published a study in which he showed that the way users surf the Internet is rather predictable and ordinary.

His survey was based on the behavior of 232 users in front of websites of different nature, discovering that everyone interacted in the same way.

In particular, Nielsen noticed the speed with which users assimilated information from web pages and abandoned them after a few seconds. Furthermore, he noticed that their gaze seemed to draw a sort of letter “F” on the screen , first moving horizontally and then rapidly descending vertically.

How eye tracking works

Eye movements are tracked using specific devices called eye trackers , while data processing is entrusted to special software that can use different techniques.

The most used technique is that of the PCCR , or the corneal reflection of the center of the pupil. This method consists in using a light source to illuminate the eye, thus causing very visible reflections which are highlighted both in the pupil and in the cornea and photographed by an infrared camera.

Subsequently, the vector is calculated , consisting of the angle between the two reflections on the different parts of the eye. The direction of the vector determines in turn that of the gaze.

Infrared light is used for this type of measurement , as it allows the pupil to be clearly distinguished from the cornea. Also, not being visible to humans it cannot cause distraction during eye monitoring.

L’eye tracker

The eye tracker looks like a pair of portable glasses, equipped with infrared and high-definition cameras that can record where the gaze is placed. There are different types of this device.

Screen-based eye trackers also  known as desktop , remote , or stationary are standalone devices that connect to a laptop or monitor. Wearables include  both glasses and virtual reality headsets. Webcam eye trackers work through a camera connected to a computer, which is supported by specific software.

The heat maps

Heat maps are graphical representations derived from eye tracking that help website owners understand what users are seeing when they access their domain.

Conceived in the 90s and underestimated for a long time, they are actually essential for measuring the usability of a site and analyzing the elements that can attract attention.

Information is not revealed through numbers, but through colors. Warmer colors like yellow, red, and orange indicate parts that have more activity on the page, while cooler colors like green, blue, and blue indicate parts with less activity on the page. part of the users.

Heat maps come in three varieties. Scroll maps allow you to understand how the user scrolls the page and what specifically displays. They are used especially for landing pages where the contents are long and develop vertically, with a view to optimizing Call To Actions to understand if it is necessary to insert new ones in strategic positions, and finally to evaluate the effectiveness of a page.

Click maps are useful for understanding which buttons or links users click on most frequently and whether some are more powerful than others. In fact, it may happen that some Call To Actions are more performing than others and this may depend on the text they contain, the colors used and the position they occupy on the page.

Hover maps analyze where the visitor moves the mouse within the page . Often the mouse follows the movement of the user’s eye, but this does not always happen.

The best heatmap software

Once you have clarified what heat maps are and their function, you need to know which are the tools that track the behavior of the public on a web page, collect the data and return the graphic result.

  • Crazyegg is considered one of the best professional tools. In addition to detecting audience interest through heatmaps, you can create A/B tests and detailed traffic analysis.
  • Hotjar is the perfect tool to do a more complete job, as it gives the possibility to record user sessions to better understand how they behave both on mobile and on desktop. 
  • Microsoft Clarity creates heat maps using open source and GDPR compliant software. Thanks to this free tool, all data can be recorded and analyzed without limits.
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