Cursor Tracking Opens New Doors for Site Design and Optimization

By Joshua Mikutis

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The internet is all about optimization these days. Gone are the days when users could tolerate slower loading speeds or slightly unintuitive site design. Nowadays, if a website isn’t optimized for speed and functionality when it comes to both desktop and mobile devices, there are a whole host of competitor sites that are optimized that will welcome new traffic and users with open arms.

In such a competitive marketplace, companies and their web designers will utilize any tool at their disposal to improve performance. One such tool that has seen an increase in effectiveness, accuracy and usage in recent years is cursor tracking.

Basically since the invention of the world wide web, sites have actively tracked what things users click on a given page. While this information has proven useful to many webmasters and advertisers, it also gives an incomplete picture of that user’s total interaction with the site, only providing data on the final act of the page visit.  

Within the last decade, however, researchers and developers have created new technology and scripts that allow them to track everywhere someone’s cursor goes on a given webpage, as well as how long it lingers in specific areas. While there isn’t a strict one-to-one correlation between where a cursor goes on a given site and where a user’s gaze actually is on the screen, there is plenty of evidence to suggest a strong connection.

With cursor tracking data now available, webmasters are able to analyze what parts of their sites draw the most and least attention and adjust site design accordingly to better optimize their pages. Retail companies can use cursor tracking to see which products a user was the most interested in and configure deals and offerings based on that information, and advertisers can get a sense of which ads most caught a visitors attention on a certain site.

This technology has become commonplace enough that it is finally starting to be used beyond proprietary analytics, with sites using it to do things like create interactive music videos or, in a more festive application, track where users hang the first ornament on a digital Christmas tree.  

While cursor tracking was developed with data collection and site analytics in mind, and it has proven to be hugely successful in those arenas, these newer, more creative applications show that it is a technology bursting with potential uses well beyond those spheres.

About Joshua Mikutis
Josh is an avid reader and a mediocre musician. He appreciates the iPad's ability to make him look both productive and interesting.

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