Eyetracking article on UXMatters

12 Jul 2006 - 9:07am
8 years ago
2 replies
372 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

So, I know I said I don't find eye-tracking useful in my own work, but a
study like the recent one printed on UXMatters.com I found to be useful
and I'd be interested in other people's thoughts:

http://www.uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000107.php

I asked the question about scaling the context. Does the gain achieved
by using a more vertical layout of a form degrade as a form scales below
the fold? Basically, does the added length/height of a form degrade its
usability compared to the gains made against other less vertical layouts?

-- dave

--

David (Heller) Malouf
Vice President
dave(at)ixda(dot)org
http://ixda.org/
http://synapticburn.com/

AIM: bolinhanyc // Y!: dave_ux //
MSN: hippiefunk(at)hotmail.com // Gtalk: dave.ixd(at)gmail.com

Comments

12 Jul 2006 - 10:49am
Simon Asselbergs
2005

Hi All,

> I asked the question about scaling the context. Does the gain achieved
> by using a more vertical layout of a form degrade as a form scales below
> the fold? Basically, does the added length/height of a form degrade its
> usability compared to the gains made against other less vertical layouts?

1) I don't see heatmaps, only single maps, so how many research data is involved?
2) This article is about saccade times and label placement. Putting labels above controls might shorten our saccade times, however it increases the mouse-o-meters.
3) I don't think right to left alignment is a good looking solution for labels...

Simon

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12 Jul 2006 - 11:04am
Christopher Fahey
2005

> So, I know I said I don't find eye-tracking useful in my own
> work, but a study like the recent one printed on
> UXMatters.com I found to be useful and I'd be interested in
> other people's thoughts:
>
> http://www.uxmatters.com/MT/archives/000107.php

While the diagrams are interesting and insightful, I would be very skeptical
about using this article as a basis for design decisions, especially the
conclusions.

When the author writes things like this, I cringe:
-- "The whitespace between labels and their input fields
-- worked well in visually guiding the users' gaze path
-- toward the input fields. In fact, there were no
-- fixations over whitespace. However, excessive distances
-- between some labels and their input fields forced users
-- unnecessarily to take more time to interact visually
-- with the form."

I hate to get personal about this, but I don't get the feeling that the
author has strong graphic design experience - or maybe he's speaking to an
audience who he assumes doesn't have graphic design experience. The initial
assumption that whitespace might "guide" a user's eye doesn't seem like
something a graphic designer would ever think. And the conclusion that the
excessive distances were a problem, on the other hand, is just graphic
design common sense. Might a professional graphic designer be a more
appropriate interpreter the data? (I'd love to see a study where the same
data is separately interpreted by a HCI specialist and a graphic designer).

The conclusions part, though, is out of control. It's a mixture of common
sense ("Be careful to visually separate the label for the next input field
from the previous input field.") and firm statements of "fact" based on what
I think is pretty arguable logic and not strongly supported by the data
("Reading bold labels is a little bit more difficult for users, so it's
preferable to use plain text labels.")

I'd rather just look at a plain summary of the data from the study than read
interpretations like these.

Again, there's some very interesting stuff in there (especially "When facing
a simple form on a white page, the first fixation of all users was on the
drop-down list box."). The author, to his credit, makes it clear that this
test was informal and that the "designs" they studied weren't too carefully
designed in the first place. Even so, you should read things like this with
your mind constantly asking yourself "how could this be an incorrect
conclusion?" and "how is this test case not applicable to me?"

Is a tenth of a second, or even a few whole seconds, really that important
to the usability of your site? Might spending more time on each field
instead of less affect accuracy of the data? Might the green backgrounds,
the top-aligned field labels, the lack of colons, the tight spacing between
field elements, or the stuff on the rest of the page (which we cannot see)
have affected the test results? These are the grains of salt you should take
with each sentence you read. These are the "it depends" factors, and they
aren't insignificant.

This article is really good for feeding your brain and enlarging your
understanding of user behavior on a general level. But I really hope that
nobody is basing any specific design decisions on the conclusions of this
article. The "it depends" factor where your specific circumstances may have
specific needs far outweighs, I think, the conclusions of this study.

-Cf

Christopher Fahey
____________________________
Behavior
http://www.behaviordesign.com
me: http://www.graphpaper.com

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