Do you know what people are NOT looking at on your website?

Its not just what people look at that’s important, but what they don’t look at is key too.

To understand this concept, we need understand a bit about how the eye works. A Tobii eye tracking white paper, released in January 2010 shows just how complex the eye really is. What really struck me reading the paper was how much our peripheral vision affects our experience of the World.

Human vision has evolved so we can see in both dark and light conditions. And we can see detail, but also can change what we look at very quickly.  We use different parts of the eye for these purposes. We see detail with the small foveal region of the eye, which is better suited to good light conditions.

The larger part of the eye, the peripheral region, is better suited to poor light conditions. It can detect movement, and contrasts between colours and shapes, but the compromise is that our vision here is blurry.


When we look at something, the foveal region of the eye pauses on the area of focus. An eye tracker measures these pauses, or fixations, and the movement between the fixations, the saacades. During a saacade, we don’t actually ‘see’ anything. No messages are sent to the brain.


On the image above fixations are represented by the dots, and the path of the saacades by the lines. The bigger the dot, the longer someone has looked at that spot.

When we eye track a website, we can easily see the area of the screen where users didn’t look.  No lines or dots mean there was no fixation it. However, we need to be careful when interpreting this data. Many people would say it is not viewed at all.  But this may not be true!

No data on an area doesn’t mean that the area did not register with the user. With our peripheral vision, we can detect movements and register contrasts between colours and shapes.  The user may have seen the area with their peripheral vision, thought it was an ad, and decided not to go there! This has previously been termed ‘unlooking’ by eye tracking researchers.

In this context, it is important to ask someone why they haven’t looked at a part of the screen.  And we can only know this if we track them!  We use a retrospective think aloud (RTA) method for this reason. The participant’s eye tracking video is replayed to them immediately after they have finished a task and questions asked about their experience and perception of the parts of the page they didn’t look at.

I did have one user who said they thought a coloured block was an ad, so they didn’t look at it, even though it was a government site! Now I am keen to study reasons for ‘unlooking’ at my next eye tracking session.



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About Objective Experience

Objective Experience is your partner for customer experience strategy, research, design and usability testing. Our team of passionate Customer Experience Consultants uncover insights from your customers to optimize customer journeys across all digital and physical channels – mobile apps, websites, systems, shopper and retail. We research on how customers interact with products, services and environments through interviews, surveys, focus groups, desk research, eye tracking and usability testing. Actionable recommendations are developed from our in-depth observations and testing. Our partners and clients come from a wide range of businesses and industries - from large financial institutions and government organisations to technical consultancies, Universities and not-for-profit businesses. Objective Digital Holdings Pty Ltd has offices in Sydney (Objective Experience Sydney) and Singapore (Objective Experience Singapore). Eye Tracking, CX, UX, Usability Testing, Shopper Research & Design Thinking across Australasia and South East Asia.

1 thought on “Do you know what people are NOT looking at on your website?

  1. We routinely use website heat-map tools to improve website user experience (UX) and optimize conversion rates in our online marketing programs. Although not as accurate as eye tracking and RTA, website heat-maps provide valuable additional insights beyond web analytics. Clients are routinely surprised when they discover how their users interact with their websites. We routinely see 50% to 500% increases in website and landing page conversion rates after proper testing and optimization. Thomas Harpointner, CEOAIS Media, Inc. |

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