Carpetright, the largest flooring retailer in Europe with over 700 stores across the UK, Ireland, Holland, Belgium and Poland, has built an e-commerce platform with transactional web sites for both the Carpetright and Sleepright brands. As part of that programme, Carpetright commissioned retail systems experts PMC to carry out an independent usability study. Key to this was PMC's use of eye-tracking software to identify how people used and reacted to the sites.
The computer-based eye-tracking technology enables PMC to show exactly where a person is looking on the screen. This enables them to show retailers the usability impact of decisions they make about web site design and layout. The computer screen works normally but includes an invisible infrared light that tracks and records each user's interaction with the site, recording how and where their eyes fall on the page.
Paul Mason, CEO, PMC explains: "It's vital that retailers present shoppers with faultless, easy-to-use web sites. That demands a 'right first time' approach. It's not acceptable to launch a site without first class usability testing. It's important to find issues and potential frustrations before your customers do. That's because online faults will cost you customers, reputation and money. Eye-tracking technology enables us to show retailers real-world results on how users interact with their sites."
"We conducted Carpetright user testing at our Abingdon laboratory. First, we select a representative group of people with varying levels of IT competence to ensure a valid user survey. Then we set them tasks to see how they interact with the site, this includes: 'find your local store', 'place an order', 'qualify for a discount' or 'search for new products'. Using eye-tracking technology we can understand how users work with a site and how they find information. The human eye is drawn to words or images for many reasons – not all of them good. Eye-tracking technology enables us to help retailers develop the most user-friendly layout."
Once the site testing is complete, PMC conducts interviews with each user to record their feelings about the site and how they rate the online experience. The combined results from the eye-tracking survey and user interviews help retailers improve design and layout decisions, make sites more eye-catching and improve click through rates.
Woosey continues: "The PMC usability study, including the eye-tracking survey, enabled us to make changes based on user experience. For example, we simplified the checkout procedure to make it more user-friendly. You only realise there are potential problems when you have real-world feedback from people that have experienced the site."
PMC's eye-tracking tests produce 'Heat' maps, 'Gaze' plots, 'Gaze Capacity' maps and 'Cluster' diagrams, to provide valuable information for site development and screen layout.
Using colour graphical representations in a two-dimensional map, 'Heat' maps show how long users spend looking at a specific part of the screen, whether that's because they are reading information or reacting to a particular image or colour. 'Gaze' plots show movement sequence, order and duration of gaze fixation to show how users' eyes move around the screen. The plots track the order that each user looks at screen layout, such as left to right, top to bottom or as a specific image or offer draws their attention. 'Gaze Capacity' maps work much like a Heat map highlighting areas that users look at the longest. However, rather than displaying colour coding for areas looked at, the map blacks out areas users ignore. 'Cluster' diagrams are most effective when looking at group results. They outline the percentage of users that focused on a particular part of a page - such as a promotion.
They also indicate which areas received users' attention for the longest periods of time.
Woosey closes: "PMC combine eye-tracking technology, their wide-ranging experience of e-commerce technology with retail-focused testing and quality assurance services to deliver a comprehensive web testing service. Their experience and sector expertise has helped us to develop a user-focused e-commerce solution that delivers the online experience our customers expect."