Why Every Designer Should Use Biometric Research

The vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. Which means we’ve already made a decision before our rational brain has the chance to catch up and think about it.

Yet companies still rely only on traditional means of user testing like A/B testing, interviews and surveys to find out what people think about their products. The problem with these types of testing is the reliability of what’s being captured. Often what people say isn’t really what they mean. It’s what they think they mean.

Our conscious mind tries to make sense of what we are experiencing by post-rationalising and adding a layer of spoken narrative. Not only that, but our memory can often let us down, no matter how hard it tries not to.

What if we told you there was a way to cut out all of the fluff, all of the rational conscious responses, and get straight to the good stuff? The gut reaction stuff. Well that’s where biometric testing comes in.


What is biometric testing? And why is it so good? 

In short, it’s the measurement of physical characteristics. In this case, measuring changes to our physiology in response to stimuli (a website, a static design, a prototype etc).

It’s brilliant in recording our unconscious physical reaction to something. It gives us detailed insights that the user couldn’t possibly be able to tell us otherwise. It uncovers some interesting (and often unexpected) user behaviour that we wouldn’t have otherwise been aware of.

Biometric research doesn’t leave room for subjective views or investigator biases. It just records real time decisions as a user navigates through the site. There’s no need to ask questions on the UI, nor is there pressure for the user to try to recall where in the journey they felt could be improved. We can see the exact moment when someone’s expressions change and identify exactly what they were doing at the time.



What exactly does it test?

All sorts, from eye movements to sweat! (Umm, gross)!

  • Eye-tracking software shows exactly where the person is looking, areas of fixation and how long they spent looking at it. From this we can create heat maps to highlight key areas.
  • Galvanic Skin Response (GSR). This little tool behaves like a lie detector test. It attaches to your fingers to measure your sweat response. Increase in sweat levels means you’re experiencing a higher intensity of emotion. This is a great tool for analysing responses to narratives in advertising campaigns. When was the peak in emotion? Did emotion build as we intended?
  • Facial coding identifies emotions through tracking micro facial expressions. Our faces react to stimuli unconsciously. This is a great indicator to how they feel about it. Are they frowning? Confused? We can detect different emotions including contempt, anger, disgust, sadness, joy, surprise and fear.


Why is biometric testing useful for designers?

Biometric testing gives you true insight into how people are using your product. As designers, our job is to effectively solve problems and communicate well. Seeing where peoples attention is focused lets us know if our signposts are doing their job well enough.

Good designers intuitively use principles that direct attention, remove unnecessary friction and set the visual tone. The research confirms or questions our design decisions, forcing us to question;

  • Was the header message clear enough?
  • Did people notice the important call-to-action?
  • Are the forms intuitive and easy to use?
  • What caused friction and negative emotion? How can I improve that part of the journey?
  • Have I made it easy for people to get from page A to page B?


How can biometric testing help you?

Our users are not rational beings, and sometimes they can’t even tell you why they frowned or smirked…

Biometric testing unlocks secrets and allows a brand to truly enhance their messaging and design output so your website. really. works…


If  you are interested in finding out more about how biometric testing can enhance your design process, get in touch at rebecca@lab.co.uk.



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