Usability testing and eye tracking

Tobii Glasses 2 usability research mobile device

Eye tracking has become a key method to test the usability of websites and software. It provides researchers and practitioners with indisputable, objective and convincing data describing user behavior and usability problems. Eye tracking is also used to study user interaction with mobile devices and physical products.

Eye tracking augments traditional usability methods, providing additional information that the test participant cannot report and the researcher cannot observe. Unique insights about first glance, search patterns, failed search, and much more offer guidance in how to solve different usability problems. Eye tracking can be used together with a variety of research methods, including observations, interviews and the retrospective think aloud (RTA) method.

Through eye tracking and click metrics, and eye tracking visualizations such as gaze plots, heat maps and gaze replays, results can easily be interpreted and findings can be presented in a convincing way. Compelling visual presentations of the results of eye tracking studies and real-time data observations provides tremendous tools to get non-usability experts excited about and involved in usability testing and to derive value from the process.

Latest publications where Tobii eye trackers have been used:


Eye tracking of websites and software

Eye tracking shows the immediate reactions of users and the distribution of their attention in an interface:

  • What attracts attention?
  • Where should important content be placed?

Webiste and software usability

This heat map shows that most attention is paid to the menu on the left, which is also where most mouse clicks are deployed. The boxes to the right and the left of the page are practically ignored.


During problem solving processes, eye tracking can give detailed information about how a user interacts with an interface.

  • Do users understand the architecture of the website or software?
  • How well do symbols describe what the user is looking for?
  • What is looked at but not clicked on?
  • What does the decision making process look like?

This gaze plot visualization shows the search pattern of a user trying to sign up for a subscription and the options considered before making a decision.

Gaze plot visualization

Video demonstration of quantitative usability testing of an on-line banking website.

Video demonstration of qualitative usability testing of an e-commerce website.

Live viewing is the simplest form of usability testing with eye tracking. It is a fast and intuitive test method to understand why users did not see a specific button or link and why they had problems completing their task. Seeing exactly what the user sees will immediately give you ideas on how to improve your site—changes that have great impact on site performance! Learn more about live viewing here.

Eye tracking of games

In a similar way, eye tracking can be used to study the usability of games and interactive TV.

Eye tracking testing of video games has proven very useful for finding usability information that would have otherwise gone undetected, like findings for improvement of path finding, visibility of visual story-telling or theater of war, menu navigation, HUD, and tutorial texts.

Gaze replay video clip from usability testing of shooter game Killzone 3

Eye tracking of mobile devices

Eye tracking in mobile usability testing provides information about how users interact with a mobile graphical user interface or different hardware elements and help usability professionals decisively select and recommend appropriate, effective designs.

  • How does the user browse a mobile web interface or use a mobile application?
  • Where on a physical device does the user look for certain options (such as buttons)?
  • How does the user’s attention shift between different parts of the device?

Efficient and accurate eye tracking solutions that allow for natural interaction with mobile devices are enabled using standalone eye trackers. Participants can hold the device, rotate the device between landscape and portrait modes, and interact with it from a comfortable viewing angle. Fixed setups allow for data aggregation in quantitative studies.

For larger devices and qualitative eye tracking studies, mobile eye trackers can be used that allow for completely free movement. Mobile interfaces can also be onscreen tested using an emulator (works like a virtual mobile phone on a computer screen).

Read more in our White Paper: Using Eye Tracking to Test Mobile Devices.

Gaze replay video clip from usability testing of mobile application (stand-alone eye tracker)

Gaze replay video clip from usability testing of mobile phone (screen eye tracker)

Gaze replay video clip from usability testing of Apple iPad (mobile eye tracker)

Eye tracking of in-field devices

Compact, snap-on eye tracking systems allow for studies also of real-world interfaces that might not offer the space to fit a conventional full-sized remote eye tracker. For instance they can be used to study in-field devices like a ticket machine or a check-in machine, in the users natural use environments.

Eye tracking in real-world environments

Mobile eye tracking solutions can provide information about the usability of signage or digital displays in real-world environments such as airports and shopping malls.

Mobile eye tracking for signage and navigation

  • How efficient is signage in guiding travelers to the departure gate, the baggage claim area, phones, food courts and other necessities?
  • In which cases do words have to be replaced with icons?

Mobile eye tracking solutions also facilitate eye tracking studies of physical devices or products, allowing the user to interact freely with, for instance, a food blender, a vending machine, or the control panel in a car.

Tobii Pro eye tracking solutions

Tobii Pro's screen eye trackers allow unobtrusive and efficient eye tracking testing of websites and software. They capture user eye movements, sounds, videos, scrolling web pages and transitions, mouse clicks and keystrokes, as well as external stimuli and triggers. Tobii Studio eye tracking software provides efficient tools for qualitative and quantitative data analysis and visualization. The solution allows remote observation of the participants’ eye gaze and real-time user interactions, and has built-in support for retrospective think aloud (RTA).

Our stand-alone eye trackers can be used for both screen and real-world stimuli setups. The compact Tobii X2-30 Eye Tracker can be snapped on to a laptop or PC monitor, providing a highly portable eye tracking solution. It also allows for studies in-field of real-world interfaces that might not offer the space to fit a conventional full-sized remote eye tracker.

The Tobii X60 and X120 Eye Trackers can be used when more fine grained data is needed. Tobii X60/X120 Mobile Device Testing Solution provides a dedicated solution for efficient, natural and high precision eye tracking of mobile interfaces and devices. It enables eye tracking of mobile phones including iOS and Android devices, navigation devices, as well as larger devices like e-readers, tablet computers and any device or object of similar size. Because they enable studies of external video screens and projections, they are also suitable for eye tracking studies of interactive TV or simulators.

The Tobii Glasses Eye Tracker enables eye tracking studies of real-world environments and physical products. Its discreet and ultra lightweight design ensures that participants behave naturally, while system-guided procedures make it easy to use the system in a real-world environment.

Our in-house experts are accustomed to using eye tracking in usability research and can provide the eye tracking training and support you need.

Read more about Eye Tracking Research