Mouse Tracking: How to Design For Your Audience

‘Eye tracking’; It’s the hot new buzzword racing around the world of web design, helping to give us a more thorough understanding of what type of content draws instant attention, and — more importantly — what doesn’t! However, as any good web design agency knows, eye tracking doesn’t always give us the full picture. That’s why we need to expand our tracking research a little, looking at different metrics. An interesting area that’s starting to gain greater traction in terms of website design is ‘mouse tracking’.

What is Mouse Tracking?

Like eye tracking, mouse tracking is a method of understanding more about what visitors see when they click through to a given website. However, rather than focusing on where the eyes are drawn to — the psychological reaction to website content — it instead explores where the hand moves; the physical reaction to content. Mouse tracking is a more in depth way of analysing the physical behaviour of visitors.

Mouse Tracking Analysis

As many people would probably expect, mouse tracking findings aren’t too dissimilar to eye tracking findings. In fact, a Microsoft research report titled ‘No Clicks, No Problem: Using Cursor Movements to Understand and Improve Search’ suggests a strong correlation between gaze position and cursor position. However, there are a few oddities that could make a huge difference to your business website.

Studies have found that:

  • Pointing arrows and pointing hands on screen can influence where we move the mouse
  • There tends to be heavy interaction near the top of the page, and not much at the bottom
  • The cursor is often used as a marker to highlight important areas or words of interest
  • Users will often hover the mouse over a link of interest and hesitate, even if they don’t click
  • The cursor is often used to guide readers, especially when reading bullet point lists
  • Users generally prefer to rest the mouse cursor on an area of white space when not in use

Designing For Your Audience

Findings like those above are essential in terms of good ecommerce website design. They give web design companies, like the team here at Mi Web Design, a unique insight into how your audience will approach your site, so that we can design in a way that attracts, engages, and facilitates a fantastic user experience.

For example, from using the above findings exclusively, we know that we want to include subtle directional cues that encourage users to move towards important information, and that we ideally want to include this information closer to the top of the screen than the bottom; above the fold at least. We know that we need to select anchor text carefully, as users will take more time looking at linked text than other text. We know that lists engage both the brain and the hand — the physical and the psychological — and that we shouldn’t be overloading users with content marketing; that a little bit of white space is A-OK!