Combining Contextual Inquiry with Eye Tracking

With technology becoming more and more complex, it is key to understand how actual users interact with challenging applications. Observing users work with these systems while at work or home is bound to yield rich qualitative data.

Image

Objective Digital’s article, “Combining Contextual Inquiry with Eye Tracking” in UX Magazine describes how eye tracking call center operators revealed some pretty amazing insights. It revealed how a stressful environment coupled with an ineffective interface can result in bigger issues, like poor customer satisfaction and high staff turnover.

Needless to say, the findings from the eye tracking analysis put a lot of arguments to rest and were the basis for the design decisions for the systems improvement.

“I finally get it!” – Eye Tracking

Next Bank Sydney 13 brought banking experts from around the World to a wonderful venue in The Rocks, Simmer by the Bay.  As a speaker, I was set a challenge by Rob Findlay, Next Bank Founder, “Shake it up”. So I did. Next Bank Sydney Logo

Instead of my run-of-the-mill presentation, I fearfully told a story about the things that piss me off in banking and the broader enterprise marketing realm and how eye tracking can dramatically improve the situation. I really want to help people discover that:

  • Data from poor market research methods add no value to business decisions and are ignored by senior execs
  • Understanding human unconscious is critical in marketing and no, you don’t know much about what really drives your customers. Certainly nothing about how or why they do what they do.
  • Marketing budgets are simply wasted if no-one looks at your stuff and this is avoidable.
  • A shit ad is a shit ad, no matter where you stick it.

My presentation was a resounding success and at the end a client of 6 years approached me and said, “You know I have worked with you for more than 6 years and only now do I really understand eye tracking!”

Here’s my presentation, enjoy and let me know what you think?

Here’s the slides with text for your reading pleasure.

Objective Measures of our Subconscious

The brain processes 400 billion bits of information a second. BUT, we are ONLY aware of 2,000 of those.” (Dr. Joseph Dispenza)

brain image

At any given moment, our brain is receiving a great deal of visual information from our surrounding environment – changes in visual space, colours, shapes, and movement of objects. We take in so much visual information that our brain selectively filters out unimportant visual data and stores it in our subconscious memory.

Not to be dismissed, the subconscious mind has a great impact on our decision-making, thoughts, and behavior. Whether its browsing a website, glancing at an advertisement, or navigating a shopping aisle, visual information filtered into our subconscious memory influences how we react in these environments.

If the subconscious mind affects a person’s behavior with, or perceptions of, an environment (either physical or virtual), then it makes sense to understand it. In this instance, traditional research methods, such as focus groups, depth interviews, surveys, digital analytics, accompanied shops and intercepts, are limited in helping us understand subconscious reactions and behaviors. So, how do we measure the subconscious?

Our eyes process approximately 300 frames per second – processing visual information at every point. By measuring where someone is looking at each frame, allows us to detect elements in the environment that people visually perceive but may not be able to recall or remember – this is what our brain has processed into subconscious memory.

Eye tracking, as a research technique, enables us to measure each individual point at which our brain processes a piece of visual information. Replaying people’s eye movements back to them (a research method known as Retrospective Think Aloud) assists people to become consciously aware of these elements – that is, bringing these elements back into consciousness.

Shopping, for example, is largely a subconscious process, where behavior unfolds as a result of perception of visuals and other cues in the environment. By using eye tracking, we are able to objectively measure how customers respond to these cues, which our brain often filters into the unconscious mind. In such instances, eye tracking has enabled us to capture both the conscious and unconscious response to visual stimuli and provide deeper customer insights and understanding.

Incorporating eye tracking into research studies involving human interactions with systems or environments has allowed us greater insight into people’s subconscious. More importantly, eye-tracking data has provided an objective and more detailed view of actual behavior.

Objective Digital are leaders in using eye tracking technology to uncover unconscious insights which can be decoded to improve the customer experience. Having worked with large financial institutions, telco’s, retailers, travel companies, government bodies and universities, our team is equipped with a wealth of knowledge across all aspects of customer experience.

Don’t bother me, I’m busy: Look through the eyes of your call centre staff

Traditional methods of user research and requirements gathering have long served us to help shape our designs. But as systems become more complex and users go beyond the screen, we are finding that it is getting more and more difficult to get accurate data on why our users, customers and even your staff are doing the things they do.

You customer sees a lot of things about you

You customer sees a lot of things about you

Often, it is difficult to get buy-in from stakeholders just based on verbatim comments from customer or insights based on the designer’s experience. This is where we’ve found eye tracking to be really valuable. It puts the science behind the hypotheses and clears up a lot of arguments.

Do you see what your customers see?

Do you see what your customers see?

Contextual inquiry has been a researcher’s best friend for a while now. It’s a tried and true research method which helps collect insights from the field without having to rely on the user’s memory or articulateness. But what users say they do and what they do are not enough to draw a complete picture of what’s happening. Many questions can be answered by where they look because the design of the system dictates the eye movements of the user.

Eye tracking helps you see what your customers see

Eye tracking helps you see what your customers see

Eye tracking enables the researcher to uncover subconscious eye movements of the user while using the system. Most of these eye movements happen without the user’s control or knowledge. More importantly, with eye tracking we can understand a busy person’s experience without distracting them from the task at hand, for example a call centre operator.

In a recent study of call centre systems, we observed where call centre operators looked at while serving customers over the phone. We found that the flow of the operators’ eye gaze on the screen was completely opposite to how the interface was laid out. This resulted in higher levels of stress for the operator as they had to constantly look for information on the screen and it was straining on their eyes as well. Even the operators and the stakeholders were surprised when they saw how their eyes were moving.

If you would like to learn more about conducting user research with an eye tracker, we have written a white paper on it that explains in more detail our eye tracking methodology and how you can introduce eye tracking into your lean UX processes. Download the white paper and drop us a line if you any questions.