Focus on the User! Part 3


After a brief introduction to the world of User Experience and an overview of the concepts of Patterns and Phenomena, it is now time to throw some concrete examples of research on the Interaction Design field on the table to get a better idea of what it means to study user behaviour in order to improve the UX of a product or service.

Follow the Mouse! The Winning Spy-losophy

Here are some interesting conclusions that are the results of a research project by Florian Mueller and Andrea Lockerd from MIT. This paper is 10 years old (2001) but as you will see, it’s still relevant and leads to the very same conclusions of a 2011 study from Microsoft researchers.

Scholars from MIT were on the cutting edge within the subject of user experience. They studied user behaviour patterns, tracking and comparing eye and mouse movements instead of considering only mouse clicking, because:

Conventional web interfaces respond to and consider only mouse clicks when defining a user model. We have extended this and take into account all mouse movements on a page as an additional layer of information for inferring user interest.

Ten years ago they were preparing the ground for future web-based user experience analysis, and they came up with these simple, yet enlightening findings:

The Hesitation Factor

Assume that users have to choose a product (and only one) to buy from an e-commerce website. Very often visitors move the mouse cursor according to where the eye is focused. Hesitations on links or text could provide meaningful information about what else interests the user on the page. People use the mouse as a marker when they are looking through a list of links. Therefore is possible to predict what the second choice would be by determining the link on which they hesitate longest before clicking their first choice, while analyzing mouse-movement data. The area where the mouse lasts the longest could identify the user’s second choice.

Speed and Intentionality of Mouse Movements

Some users move the mouse straight to the link of interest without hesitation. This behaviour exhibits a familiarity on finding a particular link on a page. Detecting  this mode of navigation with mouse-movements tracking makes it possible to determine when a user is familiar with a specific task or the overall architecture of a site.

White Space: Give Users a Place to Rest Their Mice

Including enough white space in a web page is a common rule of web page design; for it is necessary to give the eye a place to rest. Similarly, there is a need for white space in order to provide a user’s mouse a place to rest. Researchers have found that a large number of people use white space on a page in this manner. After a study, one of the users explained, “I move the mouse to white space because I don’t want to accidentally click on a link.”

Universities and large companies lead the way in terms of research and creation of knowledge and as far as we can, we should all try to make the most out what we have available within reach!