January 22nd, 2014

Making Connections Part 2 – Eye Tracking & User Experience Testing

Connecting brands with emotions and culture
Designers should aim at touching the deeper users perceptions to help brands come alive and be closer to the audiences.
Last year, I took part in an introductory brand workshop where we asked a ‘media literate’ audience what is a brand?  their responses were somewhat shy mentions at identities and feelings, but also to colours, logos and look and feel.

It is difficult to put a label or quickly describe such a deep concept.

We later asked what were their favorite brands? The audience became more passionate and the most used sentences to describe their favourite brands were ‘I love’, ‘I’m obsessed with’, ‘it reminds me’ ‘It feels like’, ‘I wish’.

Favorite brands go beyond rationale, they live with emotions and are connected to our perceptions of everyday life, to our personal history and experiences: to our culture.

Private views and common experiences

When designing it’s important to consider how a product can enhance this context, by simplifying operations, providing services and experiences or pure aesthetic pleasure.

Eye tracking measure eyes movements and can help designers improving the hierarchy of elements in a webpage or document.

However, as eye tracking experiments return the ‘visual patterns’ elaborated when a user look at a design or picture, they can also help distinguish cultural patterns and subjective perceptions and understanding how we can build them up into our projects.

So let’s take a step back and understand how our eyes send information to our brain.
How vision works?

The physiology of vision informs that is central part of the retina, the fovea, with its dense number of light sensitive ganglions that transmit impulses to the brain.

Instead of ‘scanning the reality’, the fovea samples small sections of the real world and allowing the brain to build an internal reconstruction of reality.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio explains that the mental reconstructions are subjective and influenced both by our brains structure and the neurological patterns that our brains create as response to external stimuli.

Common understanding in vision

In 2009, Robin Hawes, artist and researcher, with his project ‘Private View’, used eye tracking technology to analyse the differences in which we gather information visually and process information in our brains.

Hawes exposed different testers both to common objects and to abstract artworks. The eye movements of each different person recorded by the eye tracking device were similar for common objects, and more subjective for abstract images.

Our brains operate different patterns to reconstruct abstract artworks whilst having closer sequences for landscapes or portraits. Although we all perceive reality in a distinctive and personal way, there are similarities in how we perceive real objects around us, thus we recognise icons, symbols and feel a sense of belonging to a culture.

Designing for perception

When we design  digital products we have to investigate and understand the common cultural ground, as well as comprising new combinations of signs and symbols. Such an approach is functional to bridge and ignite the brain processes of reconstruction into reality, and realise a truly rewarding design experience.

When we work with empathy to understand the user’s cultural and emotional connections an amazing digital experience emerges.

A conscious approach to empathy is what our team pursue everyday when improving products, making a positive change in the user’s mind, even when it’s small and almost imperceptible.

“To perceive is to suffer”, said Aristotele , but it’s such a sweet pain to designers.


About the author

Silvia aims to please with seamless designs. As an user experience designer she is intrigued by users and their interactions with digital products and works to refine her eclectic skill set.