Eye tracking is a method for measuring where a person is looking or where the person's eye is moving in relation to their head, typically in reference to viewing websites or apps.
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While eye tracking may not be able to describe why we look at certain images or designs, it can tell us what we look at and for how long. Over the years, eye tracking has been used in research fields as varied as psychology, education, and medicine.
In the 1980s, market researchers discovered eye tracking as a way of studying how we read and view magazine ads. From this point on, eye tracking became a popular research method for marketing and design agencies.
In the late nineties, marketing and advertising firms began using eye tracking to discover how we viewed the World Wide Web. We’ve also seen usability and user experience research develop alongside the birth of the web. Eye tracking has been crucial in discovering certain UX rules of web design such as the concept that people are likely to focus on large text headlines on a web page. Basically, placing the most important information in the upper left corner of your website will lead to more people paying attention to it.
Because historical eye tracking studies have shown a consistent pattern to visual tracking on websites and apps, digital product teams can leverage that insight to focus and prioritize improvements—especially if eye tracking studies aren’t in the budget.
People tend to start at the top-left corner of a screen, then scan across the top before dropping down to the net line and doing the same until something else catches their eye—sometimes referred to as the “F pattern.” By zeroing in on areas in that F pattern, teams can quickly optimize high value areas of a page first, then focus on more complex areas of friction on your site through remote, self-guided customer feedback or interviews.