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Point, Click, and Follow - Usability

After a plethora of usability studies you start to pick up on some of the finer details. Each day there are great technologies that emerge and make usability testing increasingly more accurate. It isn't always easy to make something simple, especially on the Internet.  One tremendously helpful piece of technology is eye tracking software. The software produces overlays of individual web pages indicating which areas get the most attention. Check the Importance of Organic Search post for an example of a heat map. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the budget to utilize high end eye tracking equipment to improve the usability of a web site. There is a simple alternative.

Usability Eye Tracking Done Inexpensively
The underappreciated mouse can give you great information about what the user is thinking. It is
analogous with body language.  You can learn a lot from watching the user's mouse actions.  Where is the cursor going on the screen and what is it doing?  The mouse pointer is an on screen discovery tool.  If a user is unsure of something they'll usually hover over an on page element (links, images, and other interactive elements).  Take note of user mouse pointer behavior.

Try it Out
Sit down with a friend or family member and take them through a web site of your choice. Watch their mouse pointer behavior. If a user gets confused about navigation they’ll roll the mouse over areas on the page to see if they’re clickable. Mouse pointer movements go up during active interactions and navigating. Users will point and click on various areas of the page to discover interactive elements.

One exception to the tracking is when the user is reading or skimming information on the page. If a user is reading the cursor is usually at the side of the page.

If you do sit down with a user and test your site, encourage them to vocalize their experience. You’ll find that they use the mouse to point to various elements are important or confusing. Make note of their feedback.

When taking someone through a simple usability test, always note the simple things. You can learn a lot from simple things in life.

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