Webmaster Jam Session 2007 Slides

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Darrin J. Ward shares the Webmaster Jam 2007 Slides / Presentation

September 25th 2007 Uncategorized

Webmaster Jam Session 2007 Slides

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Darrin J. Ward shares the Webmaster Jam 2007 Slides / Presentation

September 25th 2007 News

Opportunities in Search

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So I went to visit Google in Mountain View …

… and learned that every second sentence has to be prefixed with “so”. Wait, that’s not all.

I’m sure you’re all just reading this to hear about the secret information they’ve been feeding me, heh. Sorry, you’ll have to join Google yourself to find out more about that part. It’s been really interesting so far, so many documents to read and digest, so many neat people to meet and chat with, so much good food to eat (good thing I’m only here for a week). The Google campus is really neat, but it’s also good to get out and do something else, like getting some neat toys for the kids (bribe my way back to getting them to recognize me when I’m home)…

Where are you in local search?

So I’m off to find a neat toy store that has more than the average plastic junk. Of course I’ll try to use Google local search to help me find one, I’m sure there are lots of really great stores around here…

toy stores near Mountain View, CA… only I can’t find out enough about them to be sure that I want tot go there. How far can you get with [“toy store” “mountain view”]? Some of the stores mentioned in the map view show more than just the location and some scraped user “reviews” (used lightly, when you read reviews which mention “conveniently located in …” and “… any seasonal holiday such as Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc.” – yeah sure, that’s how I would describe my a store) and an image copied from a page mentioning the store.

What if you want to narrow your search down? How the heck do you put “good” into words? There are people out there who think cheap plastic junk makes for a good child’s toy, so I can’t just add the word “good” (what’s up with “Uncle Frank’s BBQ” in there?). In the end I go for “wooden toys” or “wooden toys store” and try several locations in the area, checking the results of several local web directories ;) that were included in the search results to pick out a handful of stores (which I write down on paper to feed into my GPS). I end up heading to The Wooden Horse in Los Gatos which was really fun (and made me buy way too much).

If you’re new to an area (or just visiting like I was), it can make sense to try to find good stuff through a search engine that can search based on location. I can understand that it’s a bit spotty way off in Sweden Switzerland (ok, in Sweden as well), but heck, we’re in the middle of Google’s backyard.

The average smaller brick and mortal store still has a web presence that is terrible. It doesn’t take much to get those websites cleaned up and ready for the minimal search engine friendliness. It doesn’t take much to get the business registered with Google local search. Do it! Help your local businesses to get it done, help the small guy get his business listed properly. Put a nice image in there, add a good description (without the “etc”), put the real hours in there and make sure that all of that is also shown on the website in a readable fashion. Do a good deed and help that mom & pop, where you get a special treatment, to get found online. It doesn’t take much, once you know what to do.

There is a lot of opportunity in local search, but it won’t happen by itself. This is where having a clean website really pays off for a local business – when the information is presented in a machine readable way a lot of this can be automated and made available correctly. It doesn’t take much work to add the rest, and suddenly even cars are sending customers.

Why can’t I browse your site on my phone?

Sometimes I forget my notes or – gasp – can’t get a wireless connection with my laptop and have to look things up on the way. Why is it still the exception to have a site that can be used with a mobile phone browser? Some people might be using the iPhone, but the general public isn’t (especially those who from undeveloped countries like Switzerland). Why is it still so hard to access sites on the phone? I just want to look up the address or the times they’re open, argh! Ironically even some of the sites that are running mobile ads are not ready to be browsed with a phone.

Saying that nobody is using a phone to access your site now is no excuse — if your site doesn’t work on a phone, nobody will use your site that way. Make it easy for a customer to find you on the phone, make it easy for them to view at least some minimal information about your site / business while on the road. The longer people wait to get this done right, the more business those who can do it will get until then :) . Opportunity is waiting!

Spoiled by web 2.0 – easily adding neat stuff for free

obfuscated mappingWell, this is kind of getting long but I’m still in Silicon Valley. I really need to get out, run up some hill and get some fresh air into my lungs. Searching for [hike mountain view] (don’t those brackets look neat?) leads me to http://www.bahiker.com/, which has a fancy map that I can click on. Looks good so far, I bet I can find something there. Going to the right area, I end up on a page with a map and a gazillion links (less than 100, so we’re still good, lol) all bunched up on the map.

I want something nice, a couple of miles long that goes up and down a bit and is somewhere in the area. The only way to find any of that is to click my way through almost every item that is somewhere in that general location. I wonder how much work went into making that map – the one that is almost useless (it can only give you a very rough location).

Maybe I’m just too Google-oriented now, but adding a nice map that can be annotated is really simple now (I’m sure you can do the same with some of the other online mapping services), eg:

View Larger Map

By using a system like Google Maps you can have a map that lets the user zoom in and check locations before actually going in and reading all about the details. You can even set up your own maps to be public, findable on Google Maps and Google Earth. How neat is that? Add a few images to the site, perhaps even a video and you’re all set to cover all bases for universal search.

To cover even more (and get another entry in the search results for your site :-) ) you could even set up a Google Group for the site or set up a forum on your site (for more control over the look and feel, and to display your own ads). Using Google Groups you can get that done really quickly. For this site you could start a separate thread for each location and link to that from the pages themselves. As a user, it’s great to see multiple opinions about something before actually packing up and going someplace. User generated content is great — you only have to enable it, your users can fill it up for you (provided your site is compelling enough).

Another opportunity is kind of lost with regards to the ads on that site — they’re way on the bottom, a place where nobody would ever bother looking, let alone clicking. You can make more money with Adsense if you test where ads work best and use them there. If done right, the ads could even add value to the page. That alone doesn’t really provide value in search, but it could provide more motivation to keep the site “modern”.

There are opportunities in search all around – look around, take advantage or help others to take advantage of them!

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September 22nd 2007 Google

Common Email Layouts: B2C Electronics Template

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We test a lot of emails at Eyetools… newsletters, B2C, B2B, membership correspondence, etc.  One of the more common layouts we see used by large retailers is a print-advertisement style product layout.  In general, these templates never test particularly well.  We have been using one of these emails as our simple report example for a while now.   I thought the report content might be of interest to blog readers, so here it is.  If there are questions regarding the results, please let me know.

The PDF of this sample report can be downloaded here .

Note: This is a brand modified sample  The email was received through a Fortune500 retail company’s opt-in
email list.  The branding was removed, but basic layout and graphical
elements were retained.  The analysis has been kept simple, but shows the benefit of even a quick eye tracking study.


Eyetools Sample Email Report


Number of participants: 17
Demographic:  General
Average viewing time:  14.6 sec
Number of people who clicked:  1


  • This email performed at a suboptimal level.  The majority of viewing was concentrated on the text of the top two sections (“24” and “CP Challenge”)
  • The layout of this email does not guide viewers eyes effectively through the entire email.  The most dramatic improvements in viewing would likely be seen if the layout of the main content area were restructured.
  • Improved copy in the top 33% of the page will improve read through in these sections and may increase scrolling behavior.  Copy improvements in the lower 66% of the page will have little or no effect on read through.

  • Critical Messaging

    The words and images highlighted in the red/yellow areas define the "window of opportunity" this email has to grab its readers. Everything outside of that "window" was not looked at by most people (and if they don’t read it, they can’t be affected by it ).

    If the critical message isn’t being read or isn’t clear, then focus initially on rewriting the areas with the highest concentrations of reading (the red, then orange, then yellow areas).


    The message read by most people (at least 60%) was:

  • Company Logo
  • “24 Days of HD… Instant… Last Chance”
  • “Are you ready … the CP challenge … with… 1/29”
  • “Watch”
  • The majority of viewers did not get a cohesive message which included a specific sales pitch or call to action.  If this page layout is maintained, improved copywriting is vital to improving read through in each of the top section of the page. 

    Did They Scroll?

    The red lines show where each person
    stopped scrolling. It is a myth that everything has to be above the fold, but data has shown that clutter and bad design will greatly reduce scrolling and visual hotspots below the fold.


    Most people are scrolling, which is good. This means that this email has the potential to do even better. 

    However, the 33% that stopped scrolling early in the email, did so before reaching the individual sale item listings.  The top 33% of this email is comprised of 4 major horizontal elements, each with a “banner ad” composition.  Viewers skimmed the ads, becoming less interested, and less patient at each subsequent section.  Much of this result is due to poor copywriting (See “Critical Messaging”). 

    In the page structure at the top of this email, viewing is helped by the fact that each section heading is aligned on approximately the same vertical axis.  However, as soon as the 3 column format is introduced, common viewing areas decrease dramatically.

    Improving the structure and copy in the top section of this email will likely result in increased scrolling by a larger percentage of viewers.

    Identifying Design vs. Text/Copy Problems

    The green and blue areas highlight those areas read by people who engaged the email more. Because the blue areas indicate where viewers read content quickly, the placement of important text becomes increasingly crucial, particularly in areas below the “fold ” (the yellow dotted line).

    Broadly speaking, if a critical area does not have a strong hotspot (orange/red) on it then The design is not guiding the users’ eyes effectively. If, however, a hotspot exists and users are starting to read the text but do not get to the critical messaging, then the area has a copy/text problem.


    Poor read through in the top section of this email is due to poor copy.  The heading are high contrast and catch the viewer as they scan the page.  However, the first 2-3 words or each headline are relatively uninformative (i.e. “Are you ready”, “Watch the”).

    A 3 or more column layout is generally suboptimal for viewing, especially in an email.  In this email 80% of participants ignored the right most product column completely.   When viewing this email, participants selected one of the 3 vertical columns and skimmed downward.  This proved problematic for sale items spanning 2 columns.
    In the lower page structure of this email, the product pictures most effectively caught the eye of participants.  The outlines around each product primarily disrupted visual flow by creating mini “banner ads”.   When viewers see many small distinct units, they are more apt to view one well, and skip several others (even along the same vertical or horizontal axis).

    The “Tax Center” section near the bottom of the email was most effective due to it’s large, informative header.  This element performed surprisingly well.

    User Feedback

    User feedback was not collected on this email because it was run only for sample purposes.

    September 18th 2007 Uncategorized

    But What Does It All Mean? Understanding Eye-Tracking Results (Part 5)

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    Part V:  Time and the Heatmap

    In my previous post, I mentioned that heatmaps do not have a time component. Several people have asked me to discuss this topic in a little more detail, so here we go.

    Important point #1:

    A heatmap represents which content was seen by a group of participants. A heatmap helps to answer the questions “Where did users look?” and “Where didn’t users look?”

    Important point #2:

    If you are analyzing a heatmap, you are momentarily saying “Ok, in this instant we don’t care how long people looked at things, we just want to know what they saw.”

    A heatmap does not answer the questions:

    •    How long did someone look at my page or page element?
    •    Did users look away and look back?

    To further clarify these points, here’s a general overview of how a heatmap is created (click illustrations for a larger view):


    Step 1:  Collect data

    A single participant views a web page. We record her eye movements as she browses. This gives us data which can be represented in a gaze replay animation.

    Now imagine that the animation is composed of a stack of stills, just like a flip book. Each page of our eye tracking “flipbook” contains the X,Y, and Time coordinates of a single fixation.


    Step 2: Collapse individual data sets along the t-dimension

    Keep imaging our eyetracking data as a flipbook (3D data structure).  Now we will collapse the stack along the time axis.  In its most basic form, the calculation will take the area of a web page and note every location where the participant fixated.  By collapsing the time dimension, we remove it from all further calculations (poof!) 

    This means that someone who fixated the center of a page for 100ms will end up with the same fixation summary as someone who stared at the center of the page for an extended period of time.


    Of course, the algorithm for doing this computation is more complex than the example I just presented. Any heatmapping algorithm should take into account peripheral vision, microsaccades, blinks, fixation duration, “bad data”, ocular drift, dynamic page behavior, etc.   For now let’s continue with the simplified example.

    Steps #1 and #2 are completed for, oh, say 15 people total. This gives us 15 individual fixation summary plots.


    Step #3: Compute an average viewing value for each pixel of the webpage

    Again the algorithm which handles this step is more complex than what is presented here, but the basic idea is…

    For every pixel of a web page, the system asks “how many people saw this pixel?”  If 10 people saw the pixel out of a group of 15, then the algorithm says “66% percent of people saw this pixel… color it yellow on the plot.”


    This averaging algorithm outputs a heatmap showing what percentage of participants saw each page element.  Handling the data in this way keeps any single individual from biasing heatmap percentages.  For example, imagine that 14 people only looked at the center of a page, and 1 person looked at the entire area of the page.  Even though 1 participant viewed a much larger area than anyone else (and probably spend a goodly amount of time doing it), she still only represents 6.7% of the 15 person group.  The resulting heatmap would then show that 100% of people fixated the center of the screen, and less than 10% looked elsewhere.

    Other questions that have come up:

    If you make a heatmap from only the first 10 seconds of viewing, doesn’t that add a time component to the heatmap?

    The answer is no.  The method for computing a heatmap is the same no matter how large the time sample used. When you slice for specific time intervals, you are just selecting a specific group of fixations to include in the calculation. The resulting heatmap still has no time component.

    Are heatmaps created from time slices more valid or informative than those created from full experiment sessions?

    I suppose that depends on the kind of information you want to get from the plot.  If you want to see where people looked in the first 10 seconds, a time slice heatmap is appropriate. If you are trying to understand an order for page element viewing, a heatmap is probably the wrong analysis tool. If you want to see where people are looking over their entire experience with the page, a full session heatmap is the way to go.

    This is the last planned installment of our “But what does it all mean?” series. However, the discussion is still open, so if anyone is interested in other topics, just let me know.

    Article by Teresa Hernandez – Eyetools, Inc.
    Illustrations by Boyd Richard – Eyetools, Inc.

    September 11th 2007 Uncategorized

    Interview with Richard Hearne (”Red Cardinal”)

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    Hi Richard, welcome to my blog! When I look through the top posters in the Google Webmaster Help groups, you’re almost always in there – it’s great to have you there and your posts bring in a lot of background knowledge that I’m sure many site owners appreciate. It’s interesting that you are – as far as I can tell – the only one of the top posters who is professionally active in the website-area.

    Hi John. Thanks so much for asking me to participate – it’s a great honour to talk with you. Odd that you mention about my professional background. It has dawned on me that I might be the only professional SEO on the group (I wasn’t sure about this), and I’m slightly surprised that there isn’t more participation by other professionals. I’m quite sure that there are lurkers from the SEM industry, as the group is an excellent educational resource. More thoughts on this aspect a little later. Back to your questions now.

    Why do you spend so much of your time in the Google Webmaster Help groups – isn’t that almost like giving away the work that you would normally charge for? What’s in it for you?

    Funny, I’m a little embarrassed that I don’t get more time to contribute on the group. I’m not sure why that is, but I suppose I feel a small amount of ownership having posted as regularly as possible. I actually went to my profile recently to try and see how I first came across the group. I can’t say with 100% confidence how I found the group, but I was able to uncover what it was that sent me there. I was trying to find out whether Google would give .EU cTLD any special treatment in terms of country level searches. My first interaction with the group was with another ‘regular’, and that individual gave his time and knowledge freely. There’s something very endearing to actions which are without motive.

    I’ve been very lucky both personally and professionally in the past few years. I live a comfortable lifestyle and I’m getting opportunities to work on projects that even I would never have imagined not so long ago. In a way I owe some of my success to the group. There is only one resource I know of that provides more insight into Search Engines in general, and Google in particular. That resource is action – learning by doing. The group comes in a very close second place. The knowledge shared there is absolutely priceless. The individuals who contribute are, by and large, equal to and above many ‘professionals’ in the SEM field. As I said, the group is as close to the coalface as you can get without actually doing everything yourself.

    What’s in it for me? A few things. The chance to mingle and converse with some very clever and insightful people (Random Chit-Chat can contain some gems), the ability to broaden my knowledge base, and, quite simply, the ability to commit the odd good deed or two and feel good about yourself.

    As a professional website optimizer, for search engines, usability and accessibility, how do you rate the answers given in the groups? Do you feel that site owners are generally being given good advice?

    I’m neck-deep in this kind of stuff professionally. I know that in some cases individuals and companies have saved or made themselves huge sums of money by logging into a Google Group and asking a question. I can safely say that some of the advice given there for free would attract substantial fees had it come from a large agency of superstar SEO. I think that speaks volumes for those ‘regulars’ who help people out day-in, day-out.

    In my opinion the quality of advice given is generally of a very high quality. And I think the Group self-regulates itself pretty well, so if you see bad advice, more often than not it will be debunked fairly soon after by a regular. I can’t say that I’ve seen many instances where bad advice has been given (excepting the period where certain negative forces existed in the Group).

    This might cause some grief, but I’m going to state for the record that I don’t believe that compliant mark-up makes much of a difference. I am very committed to clean mark-up, but I think modern crawlers can just about munch through anything, and bad mark-up is rarely the primary cause of ranking issues (indexation perhaps more so). Connected to this, I not a subscriber to the broken META validation problem. I know the code breaks validation, but if it really was an issue I think Google would do something about it. I actually shot Phil Payne an email on this once, and while I have the utmost respect for both Phil’s experience and view on this issue, I still just cannot bring myself to buy into this particular fact (or myth?).

    I think the greatest shame about the group is the architecture of the application itself – some absolutely fantastic information gets buried by the crap platform that is ‘Groups’. I’ve been on it for near a year now, and I still can’t figure out a good way to sort the wheat from the chaff (and then to find the wheat later on… *sigh*).

    You have a lot of really great content on your site – is there a reason why you don’t seem to promote that content in the Google groups?

    Thank you. The beauty of the Group is that it is impartial and there are virtually never hidden agendas. I think that if I or any other poster was to start promoting their wares on the Group it would be a very negative development. Besides, I’ve never been one for overtly promoting myself or my business (inside the Group, or out), I prefer to talk about those things I have a passion for, and it just so happens that SEO, on-line marketing and on-line business are topics dear to me.

    Oh, and just in case that’s misread by anyone – I’m not saying that it’s bad to point at your own content, just that I have to be a little more careful than others given the potential for perceived conflicts.

    In the groups and in forums everywhere, the question of whether or not it’s worth it to make sure that a site is valid (X)HTML code and complies with the generally accepted usability and accessibility guidelines is always a hot topic. On your blog you often mention such errors in sites that you review, why is valid code, usability and accessibility so important to you as a SEO?

    As a child I used to love Lego. Every time I got something new I’d rip open the box, discard the instructions and build from the picture. (Ended with my progression to Tecnics…) But seriously, you can obviously see that I don’t read ahead, hence I’ve sort of answered this above.

    The valid code issue comes into play for me because it’s just so easy to manipulate good mark-up (tables for tabular data, not layout please). In terms of usability – well SEO is about achieving high ranks in the SERPs, but traffic is rather pointless if you cannot convert it. I’ve turned away quite a few jobs because I know that the site owner wont re-develop her site, and all the traffic in the world wont make any difference to the bottom line. In the past 6 months a large proportion of my work has been in usability and conversion optimisation actually.

    Accessibility is a no-brainer for me. You needn’t conform with every point from the strictest guidelines, but why not give as wide an audience to your content? The added bonus is that crawlers rarely if ever have issues with well coded accessible websites. It’s a win-win.

    Why is the focus of many of your blog postings on sites for and in Ireland? (I love the local touch with the unique and interesting content about search and websites in general.)

    I suppose it’s a comfort zone thing. Most people tend to write about what they know best. And besides, I love to stir things up when I see websites that are making those stupid mistakes that require more effort than doing things well. (On an aside, controversy can be a very strong marketing tool, but manage wisely :) )

    Is there anything I can pass on to Google, from you in particular, as a professional SEO, SEM and someone very active in the Google Groups?

    *sigh* where do I start…

    1. Webmaster console used to be great, but the information is becoming so stale that it borders on useless. (Part of me thinks this is all part of the great anti-SEO crusade Google is currently on.)
    2. Stop crapping out my searches with spyware interstitials – I’m logged in, you can identify me, I’m not infected. (Further tactic in Google’s anti-SEO crusade.)
    3. More Blue badges in the Group please – if you guys can take time out to hang in WMW, surely it’s not too much to expect a little interaction in your own ‘Official’ support forum?
    4. On a local note – given the huge base here in Ireland (‘Paddyplex’) why isn’t Google more active in the local web community? MS puts you guys to aboslute shame with the local support they give to grass roots. Not even a peep out of Google.

    Is there anything you’d like to add?

    Very, very well done on your new job. Something tells me ‘perfect fit’ applies here. The only negative might be that Google’s gain will be the wider community’s loss… Hand on heart, you’re definitely one of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I’ve met on my short travels across the Interweb.

    Thanks for your time, Richard!

    No, thank you John.

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    September 7th 2007 News

    By: Larry Bailin

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    I wish people would stop falling for this kind of stuff. If it cost twenty dollars to succeed everyone would be a success. I thought by this time people would stop believing all the “Google secrets revealed” stuff. These so called experts would not be able to figure out Victoria’s secret much less Google’s. You’re right on the money – there is no secret. Tried and true sales and marketing understanding, caring about what your customers need and common sense. Unfortunately common sense is not so common and that’s why these experts exist and why I keep getting email from deposed dictators.

    September 7th 2007 Uncategorized

    But What Does It All Mean? Understanding Eye-Tracking Results (Part 4)

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    Part IV:  What is a scan path?

    I believe I referred to “scan paths” or “fixation patterns” in earlier entries.  Understanding scan paths are critical to interpreting eye movement results.

    A scan path is a sequence of eye fixations made when someone samples a visual scene. Put simply, a scan path is the path our eyes follow when looking at an image.

    One scan path image shows the sequence of fixations made by a single user.  Please note that individual fixation patterns are very noisy. However, if you look at a number of these traces, patterns can emerge. What we look for in individual scan paths are “orderly viewing patterns”.  In other words, we try to determine whether or not a person’s order of fixation follows a logical flow through a page.

    At Eyetools, we produce scan path images which look like the image to the right.  A key to this can be found on our website. 

    Qualitative analysis of scan path patterns is critical to any (usability targeted) eye-tracking study. Scan paths can be especially useful when presenting to design, marketing, and usability groups.  They very effectively illustrate how individual users are navigating the page.  However, when doing your basic analysis, experience and a working knowledge of eye movement/scene search literature will get you the most reliable read from these results.

    There are many ways to discuss gaze traces.

    Here are just a few examples of the imagery I’ve found works well when explaining traces:

    • Think of view flow as a stream.  Are users flowing smoothly and unhindered through page content? Are things like ads or section breaks helping to guide the eye, or is the design placing a big boulder in the stream forcing users to detour around a section?
    • Is there a "spaghetti effect"? Do many individual scan path images look as though someone dropped a handful of spaghetti on the page? (splat!) If users are searching a page at random, they are probably lost and aren’t internalizing the message your page is trying to convey (at least not in the most efficient manner). 
    • Does viewing suffer from a "pendulum effect"?  Do viewers use a page element as an anchor point and oscillate back and forth in multiple directions?  (Think Foucault’s Pendulum) This pattern can result in decreased read-though of content, and has a number of other implications.  However, the severity of this problem really depends on the individual page content, design/client priorities, etc.

    From this point on, any number of other metrics can be considered for data analysis.  The data you choose to examine more closely all depends on what you want to learn from your study.   

    Continuing the Discussion: Methods and More

    A note on software:

    At Eyetools, we use in-house software to analyze our data. This has allowed us to develop tools that many commercial software systems don’t readily provide. I’m not entirely familiar with the limitations of commercial and open source tools, but I assume that a large portion of stage 1 (heatmap analysis) and stage 2 (qualitative scan path analysis) is very common place.

    But regardless of what kind of analysis algorithms you use (commercial, in-house, open source, etc.) it’s important for the experimenter to have a solid understanding of eye movement terminology, experimental methodologies, and eye tracking algorithms.   After all, it helps to know (1) what you are actually measuring with an eyetracker, and (2) what the measurements mean, and (3) what the limitations of your hardware and software are. (Well, that’s true in any field isn’t it?)

    A note on methodology:

    Task instructions and participant preparation (priming) are important concerns in any behavioral or survey style study.  Eye-tracking is no different.  Rather than discuss methods at length, I’ll just pop in some pointers to other discussions and resources. 

    •    [pdf] Granka, L and Rodden, K (2006). Incorporating Eyetracking into User Studies at Google. ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.
    [blog] Matteo Penzo’s  Introduction to Eyetracking: Seeing Through Your Users’ Eyes
    •    Suman, S and Bradburn, NM (1983). Asking Questions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    September 7th 2007 Uncategorized

    By: Tammy Dickinson

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    Finally….someone saying what I have been thinking for a long time now. Thank you.

    I would love to see some fresh air out there in advice or tips. I know that the wealthy get wealthy by keeping what they know close and the rest under the blanket with the flashlight, but wouldn’t be wonderful if there were bits and pieces to impart that changed the stagnant waters that the hungry new folk long to drink from?

    Great post!


    September 6th 2007 Uncategorized

    But What Does It All Mean? Understanding Eye-Tracking Results (Part 3)

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    Part III:  What is a heatmap… really?

    A heatmap can be defined several different ways, but as they say, all roads lead to Rome. I find the 2 most useful ways of describing a heatmap are:

    1 – A heatmap is an aggregate representation showing what areas a group of people fixated when viewing a webpage or email. The image shows where the sample group looked or didn’t look.  Well produced heatmaps should also take into account a reasonable percentage of peripheral vision. 


    2 – A heatmap is a probability map which tells you what page content users are most likely to see. This is only true when the number of individual sessions used to create the heatmap is large enough.  At Eyetools, we recommend 15 people in most cases.  This number is based on what we have found gets our clients reliable results and the best cost-benefit ratio (bang for their buck).

    Heatmaps are striking images, and very informative analysis tools.  However, they are just the tip of the iceberg when performing a proper analysis of eye movement data.  This is why companies who specialize in eye-tracking research have begun popping up. 

    What can’t you learn from a single heatmap?

    •    View order. Are users scanning the page in the most efficient way possible?  Are they forming a coherent message or are they lost? Sometimes a heatmap can be covered in "hot spots" but read through was very low.  More analysis is needed.

    •    Copy vs. Layout Problems.  Heatmaps can help experimenters determine whether a page’s layout or copy is responsible for decreased viewing.  However, further analysis is needed to make a complete diagnosis.

    •    How to improve page performance.  This is really knowledge that can only be gained through experience.  Viewing patterns can be affected by a number of different factors.  Heatmaps can help you to understand if there is a problem, but not how to specifically go about making changes.  (That’s why we’re here. Please excuse the shameless plug.)

    •    Variability.  By definition heatmaps do not have a measure of variability (error bar) associated with them.  I have a few thoughts, and (some rather interesting findings) about the variability in heatmaps and other eye-tracking metrics, but that is another discussion all together.  If anyone is particularly interested in discussing analysis at this level, let me know.

    •    Time Components. Heatmaps do not have a time component. Time spent looking at a page element, or the page as a whole, is not represented at the heatmap level. 

    September 5th 2007 Uncategorized