Eye tracking is the cornerstone of web usability. It is both an expensive practice to undertake as well as being one of the most useful as far as design and usability is concerned.
We'll start by explaining that Wilson Cooke do not undertake eye-tracking test studies. Whilst we preach their usefulness, our user experience model concentrates on effective ROI using appropriate remote usability testing.
That being said, most are under the assumption that the very benefits of eye-tracking test studies can be achieved using other, cheaper alternatives which I highly disagree with. Eye tracking test studies offer something that other tests can't and that's an insight into the user's mind without actually specifically asking them what they are thinking. Take click tests for example, a simple usability pratice that can be undertaken on sites such as www.theclicktest.com. Arguably there is a 84%-88% correlation between eye and mouse movement, citing a Carnegie Mellon paper from 2001 (http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=634234 accessed 9th March 2012, 12.35).
Test our theory on this blog post for example - are you reading and your hand/mouse movements following where you're reading? I highly doubt it. Visitors tend to naturally focus on the point in the upper left corner of the page. They skim to the right, look down, then skim right again, forming the classic F-shape. Users mouse movements are sporadic - drawing them to the key content on the page only, sometimes only in the periphery vision, not core vision.
Here at Wilson Cooke we practice what we preach - not in the sense that eye-tracking is of upmost importance to us, but user experience and web usability is; we call it persuasive design. For example, we understand that on a blog or another non-landing page, readers tend towards the F pattern, so maybe we can quietly guide them with the proper placement of an action button on the landing page. From there, we’ll need to cater more towards their habits. Generally speaking, there’s not much visitor awareness when it comes to the right column of the page. Important information or links can be located in the region, but the page isn’t effective if no one is looking at it. All sites and pages are different though and are dependant on your audience, content and objectives as well as best practice methods and our experience.