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Why eye tracking isn’t part of Indiegogo UX pro’s user tests

I was in for a surprise when I sat down to interview Aga Bojko, the author of the first how-to book on using eye tracking for user experience (UX) research.  Bojko immediately said that she doesn’t use eye tracking in her work as Indiegogo user research director, so much of our conversation focused on the effective, low-cost user testing approaches and tools she does use.

Eye or gaze tracking, the act of using a device to see where on the screen the user is looking, is an accepted user research method, but it’s not a practical one in a fast-paced product development environment, said Bojko. Although the prices of eye tracking tools are decreasing – consider The Eye Tribe’s $199 device – it’s not just about the tool, but the time and skills needed to use it and analyze and interpret the eye movement data correctly.  “I’d never ask for an eye tracker, even though I wrote the book, and that should tell you something.”

The rise of mobile devices and Agile development also make eye tracking  impractical for many businesses.

Getting standard UX research done fast enough in Agile iterations is hard, and adding eye tracking would make it harder. “It adds to the setup time, and … there’s time spent in analysis,” Bojko said. “In quick, iterative user testing, you learn just a bit more with eye tracking. Is it worth it? Not with the speed that we’re moving here.”

As for its use in mobile user interfaces (UIs), “it’s hard to do eye tracking on small screens, because eye trackers still suffer from accuracy issues,” Bojko told me. “It works much better on larger interfaces.”

Tracking users’ eye movements may not be a regular practice for Bojko and her research team, but personal contact with users is. Indiegogo’s researchers meet with customers in the headquarters in San Francisco and also go to customers’ and potential customers’ businesses and homes.

When a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, Bojko uses remote UX testing services, like Validately and UserTesting. Such services provide videos of people using products and offer a very quick turnaround time.

Overall, Bojko enjoys the moments of revelation that come from seeing people use the product features she helps create. “There’s nothing that beats watching people achieve their goals using our product and getting their feedback on the spot,” she said. “That’s why I was glad to get a job not specifically for my eye tracking expertise, but for my user experience research expertise in general.”

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Eye tracking has for a long time been a very resource intensive technology that only gets used at the very beginning of a redesign (to verify existing issues) or at the very end (to validate new changes). With new technologies however this is changing (such as the EyesDecide platform that we here at xLabs have built).

While general user testing will uncover most usability problems and do so in a timely manner, the ability to perform remote eye tracking research at the same speed and cost means there is now no reason not to. Moderated research will always be the norm, but performing eye tracking research on top of this is no longer out of reach for everyone except huge corporate companies (which Aga says consistently in her book).

As Aga says though, there's nothing better than getting immediate feedback and showcasing the results to clients.
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