Building user empathy with attention data

  • by Stefan Ruff
  • 6 min

Woman standing in front of shops looking at her mobile phone.

The world of UX design and research is evolving at a rapid pace. As it progresses, a certain trend is gaining prominence - the focus on user empathy. It represents a significant shift from considering users merely as participants in a digital journey to viewing them as individuals with unique experiences and expectations.

In this piece, we delve into the power of attention data, particularly how tools like
Tobii UX Explore are offering valuable insights into user behavior.

The rise of user empathy

In the digital world, where around 435,000 apps are downloaded every minute and over $320,000 is transacted on mobile devices in the same moment, the challenge to stand out is mounting for brands and online retailers. User experiences are shifting increasingly toward mobile devices, forcing companies to adopt a ‘mobile first’ strategy in which designs for handheld devices are prioritized. Amidst this backdrop and with users spending more time on their mobile devices, user attention has become its own currency. But how can companies harness it?

Woman looking at instagram on mobile

The answer lies in cultivating empathy for users - a capacity to "see through the eyes of the user." While traditional methodologies like interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups provide essential insights, they primarily yield data that users consciously process and express. These conscious responses represent only one part of the overall user experience and are often influenced by social desirability and the questioner's expectations.

Not only do new methods need to cover the full breadth of the user experience, they need to understand where users are having experiences in the first place.

Attention data: A view into the user experience

This is where attention data comes in as a powerful way of understanding user behavior in depth. By observing eye movements, we gain insights into how users interact with various elements, offering a direct window into their cognitive processing. For instance, the length of an observation corresponds with the duration of cognitive processing, revealing the elements of an interaction that resonate with users.

Traditional attention measurement studies are often laborious, involving users participating in lab settings. This not only limits the scale and pace of these studies but also introduces an unnatural behavior bias, as users know they are being observed.

Man looking at a mobile phone

The role of Tobii UX Explore

Enter Tobii UX Explore, a game-changing UX research tool that enables remote testing, allowing participants to engage in UX studies from their smartphones through the selfie camera. This allows UX researchers to conduct studies easily and from anywhere, negating the need for lab visits and paving the way for genuine user empathy.

What’s more, Tobii UX Explore’s remote testing capability aligns perfectly with the 'mobile-first' development strategy that many modern companies have adopted. As digital interactions increasingly migrate from desktops and laptops to mobile devices, many traditional user testing tools have lagged. Tobii UX Explore fills this gap, ensuring that research tools are reflective of our mobile-dominated world.

The Tobii advantage

Tobii UX Explore is a unique testing tool, partly due to the speed of its testing process and the immediacy of the insights it delivers. Tests can be set up quickly, and insights are available right after participants complete the test. This expedited process syncs well with rapid testing cycles, facilitating iterative design and continuous improvements.

Complementing its speed is Tobii UX Explore’s intuitive gaze data visualization. It provides clear, easy-to-understand visualizations that democratize data analysis and decision-making. Teams no longer need to master complex analytical methods to derive insights from the data. With screen recordings overlaid with gaze visualizations, teams across an organization can view interactions with their UX design through the eyes of the customer.

Tobii UX Explore isn’t just a tool; it's a catalyst for amazing design, fostering customer empathy, and shaping a more user-centric digital future. The potential applications are vast, and as e-commerce and digital experiences become increasingly customer-driven, tools like Tobii UX Explore will be key to delivering meaningful, empathetic user experiences.

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    Written by

    • Stefan Ruff

      Stefan Ruff

      Global Product Manager Segments/Enterprise Solutions, Tobii

      Hi, I am the Global Product Manager for Tobii UX Explore and Sticky. My mission is to help businesses take data-driven decisions based on user and consumer understanding. I have always been fascinated by the interaction of humans with technology and the challenge of how to design digital products in a way to fit the needs of their users. Great UX is the common denominator of all successful digital companies and I’m convinced that combining attentional and behavioral insights to innovate your products is the key to get there.

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