In collaboration with Mariano Rodriguez.
Designers are usually creating, iterating, and updating their work in a type of vacuum. They rely on best practices, current experiences, their personal opinion, and if they are lucky enough, they have some user feedback to help guide their design. When the issues with a design go further than what one can simply see, it is important to take advantage of tools outside of design.
Traditionally Biometrics is only seen as a way to get data on users, it is seen as not creative and as a result, not usually used by designers. Biometrics provides data such as eye tracking, facial muscle activity, skin responses, and heart rate which can all be used and combined by designers to gain insight on their users and find pain points that they can improve through design.
Biometrics can provide insights into what exactly your users are looking at. Eye tracking allows you to see what parts of your design are eye-catching, distracting, and which areas need more attention. This allows designers the ability to make decisions based on real-time data. For example, if there is an important link, picture, button, etc. that is not being used, a designer can look at the gaze patterns or heat maps to see exactly where users are fixating or spending more time looking at to then improve their design. The choice to change a color or move an element is still that of the designer, but with biometrics, they are able to easily test and receive clues on which of those choices they should make.
How Biometrics Help UX Designers?
Biometrics can help designers identify the real pain points in the design by watching stress levels and other physiological metrics. Along with eye tracking, biometrics allow you to see Facial Expression Analysis data which can tell you if a user is frustrated, happy, confused, etc. By combining this Facial Expression Analysis with eye tracking, one can see exactly what the user is looking at and find what needs to be improved about the design. Correlations can be made between different stimuli, behaviors, and patterns to further point out areas where there is an opportunity to improve the design.
Once the biometric data is collected from user testing, the User Experience (UX) Designer now has a far deeper understanding of how the user interacts with the tested experience. In a normal usability test, the Designer can usually see the user interacting with the site, while the user provides feedback. Although this is valuable it can be very limited. Biometric data allows the designer to view what is unspoken and unseen. They can see how the user physically reacts to their work and identify what needs to be done to create the best experience.
The designers can use biometrics data to understand and see where the user's eyes are drawn to while interacting with the site (eye tracking), especially while completing a task. As you can imagine this is incredibly helpful because designers can now understand what is grabbing the user’s attention and how their eyes navigate through the experience. Better understanding what is causing pain points for the user will only help the designer improve this experience and even help with future experiences. Designers can now see the emotions of the user (subtle or not) while they are interacting with the experience. Without this data, the designers are relying solely on user feedback and observing the users while they complete tasks. Knowing what causes the users to feel different emotions like frustration, anger, or joy is extremely valuable to help improve any experience and guide the design process.
A simplified definition of a UX Designer’s role is that they are given the task of creating the best user experience possible. User testing plays a key part in that process and as a result, designers work hard to prevent pain points. The majority of the initial decisions are based on current patterns, style guides and libraries, UX trends, and the designer’s past experience. These areas are important but can be flawed. User testing allows the designer to receive the needed feedback from user’s themselves, which provides key insights to improve the experience. Biometric data takes it a step further. A designer can now peer into what is unseen, and truly see what works and what is causing roadblocks. When it comes to their work there is nothing more gratifying to a UX Designer than when they can deliver an experience with the data to back up their decisions. Supplying the biometric data to show how the users physically interacted and reacted to their work is incredibly valuable to designers.
READ MORE: Do's and Don'ts of Using Biometrics In Your UX Research Project, Things to be Mindful of When Fielding Your First Set of Biometrics Studies, What to Consider When Designing a Biometric Study, Biometrics & Recruiting: What Questions Need to be Added to A Screener?