It has been believed that you can read a lot from a person by observing the behavior of their eyes. In the context of UX research, eyes are also a great source of knowledge about how people gather information and what influences their actions and decisions. Today, we can apply the latest technologies to gather many valuable insights into human behavior by tracking eye movement. Read the article to learn how eyetracking works and what it is all about.

Eyetracking in UX testing – table of contents:

  1. What is eyetracking?
  2. What does eyetracking consist of?
  3. How to include eyetracking in usability testing?
  4. Summary

What is eyetracking?

Eyetracking is a technology that records eye movements and enables the researchers to find out where a person is looking, at what or for how long. Thanks to such visualization, we can see the exact paths a user’s eye follows on a page. Eyetracking in UX research is very often employed in usability testing because it allows us to find out how users scan pages, and which elements catch their attention the most and which are overlooked.

Eyetracking is the only method to objectively and accurately record and analyze a user’s visual behavior. This helps in detecting usability problems without interfering with the user’s natural behavior. With this methodology, you can see live what the user sees and immediately understand where these problems are occurring.

How does eyetracking work?

The eye tracker directs light onto the eye, and sensors record the direction of its reflection off the cornea. At the same time, the camera takes multiple images of the user’s eye at very high resolution. The position of the eye gets documented many times per second.

Eyetracking tools generate interesting visualizations that can benefit the design process. By analyzing eyetracking visualizations, product designers can better understand how people perceive and understand the content and individual interface elements. The most popular visualizations are heat maps and gaze point diagrams. A heat map is a view of the location the study participant was looking at. It is created based on fixations – the places participants focus on and look at the longest.

Most eyetracking tools cannot only show the most often viewed areas but also combine fixation points to show the exact path a participant’s eye follows when looking at a particular page. Viewpoint charts allow the researcher to see what elements on the page piqued the participant’s interest as well as the order in which they saw them.


How to include eyetracking in usability testing?

It may seem that there is no better way to test UX than to see it through their eyes. However, to get the most out of eyetracking, there are a few basic things to keep in mind.

  1. Consider other possible testing methods
  2. Eyetracking surveys unfortunately require a lot of time. You need to recruit study participants, prepare the testing environment, and take the time to analyze the results after testing. Therefore, when you determine the scope of your research, don’t start with eye tracking right away. Consider whether you can employ cheaper, simpler testing methods. For many projects, low-cost methods such as user interviews or A/B testing may sufficiently extract valuable information that will help the project team make informed decisions.

  3. Identify the purpose of testing and select appropriate participants for the test
  4. As with other usability tests, it will be very important to determine what questions you want to answer. With a goal in place, you can define the tasks the participants perform during the test. Determine who your target user is and who will help you get the answers.

  5. Recruit a sufficient amount of test participants
  6. You should pick the number of test participants based on the nature of the tests and your individual goal. For the recordings you plan to analyze manually, 5 participants will suffice for qualitative eyetracking tests. For creating valuable heatmaps and gaze paths (charts), analyzed automatically, it is recommended to invite at least 39 participants.

  7. Select a test environment
  8. Determine whether you want to set up your in-house eyetracking team or outsource the testing to an external company. Determine where the testing will take place and prepare the environment – provide the appropriate equipment, the necessary personnel for the testing, ensure the comfort of the participants and quietness during the testing.

  9. A retrospective repeat of the gaze
  10. After completing the test, it is advisable to interview the participants and ask some follow-up questions to the survey. We also encourage you to ask the subjects about their emotions and feelings concerning performing the various tasks during the test.

  11. Don’t use eyetracking as a substitute for other testing tools
  12. You need to be aware that eye tracking is not a substitute for other usability testing methods. Remember that eye tracking is more of a quantitative test than a qualitative one. Eye tracking data will certainly help you understand that users are spending more time focusing on a particular element – while it will not tell you why this is happening. Qualitative information can only be obtained by interviewing users.


    Eyetracking is still a relatively new technology that could change the way we create digital products. The ability to see a user’s natural interaction with a product enables researchers to identify real usability issues. Applied properly – along with other complementary research and testing methods – eyetracking can provide very valuable information to help inform design decisions and improve the user experience of a product.

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    Eyetracking in UX testing | UX research #27 klaudia brozyna avatar 1background

    Author: Klaudia Kowalczyk

    A graphic & UX Designer which conveys into design what cannot be conveyed in words. For him, every used color, line or font has a meaning. Passionate in graphic and web design.

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