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Overview Of Eye Tracking At Yahoo
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Overview Of Eye Tracking At Yahoo


I presented this deck at the Bay-CHI Birds of feather meeting at Yahoo on June 22, 2010. …

I presented this deck at the Bay-CHI Birds of feather meeting at Yahoo on June 22, 2010.

The deck provides a brief history of eye-tracking and the the kinds of decisions we make using the method.

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  • We did a number of different Experiments including changing the way certain terms are bolded -- showed significant double digit % increase in clicks, and user engagement – which helped us quantify the impact, and understand more about why’s
  • People make a number of subconscious decisions. In this case this abstract would have significantly eroded perception of relevance, and increased user frustration.
  • Even though users said that they liked the design with the image thumbnails – the actual behavior indicated that users tended to avoid the images because they thought of them as ads or irrelevant content. Additionally there is a certain amount of cognitive overhead associated with switching contexts from scanning text to scanning images – as a result we decided not to try to change habits -- because in this case the behavior is hardwired into users.
  • We were able to quantify the effectiveness of a user interface using eye-tracking. Senior leadership was not interested in launching search assistance, until we were able to prove a 14% increase in page effectiveness – at which point the Search organization quickly agreed to support a launch. Yahoo launched Search assistance in 2007 to rave reviews. This significantly improved user experience and market share. Google followed a year later. Search assistance is now a standard feature for anybody searching
  • Eye tracking predicted a 6-8 week learning curve for search assistance. Once launched click logs confirmed the findings. The Click log findings on learnability were presented at SIGIR 2008 ( A longitudinal study of real-time search assistance adoption, Peter Anick, Raj Gopal Kantamneni ) Planning for learnability is critical for the web because the cost for switching is minimal. If something takes 20 weeks to learn users are likely to migrate to a different product rather than learn the new experience even if it will eventually be a better experience. At Yahoo! I usually shoot for learnability to be under 6 -10 weeks for search. Other products have different thresholds depending on the nature of user interaction.
  • The rich advertisement program increased ad conversions (not clicks!) significantly. Currently this program commands a premium in the Yahoo! ad marketplace.
  • The same heat map will mean different things depending on the user intent. This heatmap on the yahoo shopping experience is bad. As a result the page was redesigned to better match user inent.


  • 1. Prasad Kantamneni Eye-Tracking At Yahoo! Overview of the Method Bay-CHI: Eye-Tracking Birds of feather meeting. June 22, 2010
  • 2. About Me
    • Research Scientist at Honeywell Labs
    • Research Engineer at WSU
    • Principal architect of the Human Perception Center of Excellence at Yahoo!.
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 3. The Big Picture
    • “ When you do something on Yahoo! Search 54M people will see it by the end of the week”
    • 2.6 Billion visits on the Yahoo! home page alone
    • # 1 or #2 in in Mail, Sports, Finance, Search…
    • More than 2x the users of any of the other mail providers
    • ~5000 customers come through the user research labs in any given year (US only).
    • Use a range of techniques from ethnographic studies to click metrics to understand customer needs, and define UX.
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 4. The Big Picture – Eye Tracking
    • Running ET for about 4 years at Yahoo!
    • Deployed on multiple products such as Search, Advertising, Mail, Finance, Sports, Shopping, Intl etc.
    • Usually run around ~ 15 - 20 ET studies a year
    • With significant increase in UX and Revenue.
    • New ET facilities designed for large scale collection of data
    • 12 eye-trackers, with custom built software.
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 5. Why are we doing what we are doing?
    • In 2005 Traditional measurement methods were falling short of measuring and understanding user behaviors.
    • Unable to get to the Why
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 6. History
    • Round 1 of Eye-tracking studies in early 2006 with the standard Tobii software – to understand the value of the method
        • Pros:
          • Cool factor
          • Get engineers to come in and attend the studies
          • Easier to build a case
        • Cons:
          • Too much data to make sense of
          • Easy to bias: more sensitive instrument means more susceptible to biases
          • Quality of information not significantly different from what you would get from traditional studies
          • Starting to understand that certain decisions are made subconsciously – yet unable to quantify or measure them
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 7. History
    • Round 2 of Eye-tracking studies in late 2006 - 2008
        • Changed Software to Eyetools
        • Fine tuned protocols to minimize Biases
        • Pros:
          • Strong Quantitative analysis capabilities
          • Reduced biases
          • Allowed for solid experimental design
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 8. High resolution image seen by the Fovea Reduced visual acuity experienced by the parafovea Progressively reducing visual acuity from the periphery of the retina
  • 9. Users use parafoveal preview to identify the parts most likely to have relevant information based on the location of boldfaced terms
  • 10. Familiar summary patterns draw user attention and clicks Users are relatively blind to unfamiliar summary patterns.
  • 11. Learned how to model and extrapolate
    • Users use bolding in titles to rapidly scan the SRP.
    • Bolding in scan path is critical to making users notice a result.
    • If a result is not bolded here, it is not noticed, and hence cannot be judged as relevant .
  • 12. Learned to test Models with click logs Design A Conversational title style Design B To the point title (query term – property)
  • 13. Learned when and how to introduce changes into a UI <video> Yahoo! Presentation
  • 14. Learned when not to introduce change Rapidly Evaluating new ideas, and predicting user behavior  Launched with Keywords instead of image thumbnails -- despite more positive response to thumbnails – because of cognitive overhead.
  • 15. Learned how to quantifying the effectiveness of a UI and optimize for learning Old Yahoo! Y! with Search Assistance
  • 16. Learned how to predict learning and better interpret logs
    • Once you optimize for learning, give time for people to learn the new experience.
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 17. Learned how to make money
    • Rich advertisements help advertisers convert better, and command a premium in the marketplace
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 18. History
    • Round 2 of Eye-tracking studies in late 2006 - 2008
      • By the end of the program we had
        • Redefined the Search box experience with the Launch of the Search Assistance in 2007
          • Is now the default expectation with search boxes
        • Supported significant Market Share and revenue increases
        • Enabled product teams to teams launch new features in 11 weeks compared to 1+ years for other teams
        • Demand outstripped our ability to deliver
      • Cons:
        • No cool factor – was too mechanical
        • Not scalable
          • Time to manage panels
          • Time to collect data
          • Time to analyze
          • Availability of trained researchers
          • Time to roll out to other domains.
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 19. History
    • Round 3: 2009 - date
      • Bring the cool back
      • Wanted to scale up our eye-tracking capacity
      • Support innovation
      • Reduce skills gap
        • Make it easier
        • Phased training
      • Automated metrics to further speed up analysis
      • Expand to other domains
      • Cons:
        • There is no software to support the needs
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 20. History
    • Round 3 - 2009 - date
      • Redesigned Labs to support concurrent data collection
        • Can collect data from 130 people in 3 days
      • Custom Software built by Eye-Square
      • Decomposition of tasks to allow for graceful learning
        • Researchers not thrown into the deep end in the first round
      • Open access to data
        • A large repository of data to mine and build on
      • Automated process to correlate ET data with click logs
    Yahoo! Presentation
  • 21. The future
    • Eye Tracking is a stepping stone to generating finer behavioral models.
    • These models will significantly enrich the way we design experiences
        • Reduced guess work
        • Faster design cycles – with the team buy-in
        • Deeper understanding of user behaviors
        • Quantification and Prediction of UI performance
    Yahoo! Presentation,
  • 22. Thought Exercise Which is better?
  • 23. Why? Which is better?
  • 24. Intent is Key
  • 25. Prasad
    • Kantamneni
    • Principal Architect – Human Perception Center of Excellence
    • [email_address]