EEG as a measure of website success

by Elisa del Galdo on 17 September 2009

As people continue to strive to find new measures of website success, a method which is currently under scrutiny is electroencephalography or EEG.

Lightning ballSimply put, EEG measures conductance (electrical activity) in the brain, which can be associated with certain emotions, such as surprise or anger. EEG, first developed for testing epilepsy, is most certainly not a quick method and most likely not an effective way to understand emotion in users. Firstly, the practitioner needs to understand the science behind the tool. It can be a very in-depth discipline, so it is crucial that any study is implemented by a professional researcher who is an expert in cognitive neuroscience as well as psychology.

EEG is not a technique that will give the clear black and white results that the industry wants. In the analysis of data, the research must make a lot of deductions when interpreting the results. It is not a test that gives conclusive results on its own, but it can offer useful indicators of emotion, the key being the mapping of the results to particular emotions.

In addition, all of the results can be affected by mood, attention levels and environment, making the interpretation of results even more difficult. Hence, any testing of this sort would require participant numbers of 30 plus. The more participants, the more data there is, and the more time it takes to collect and analyse – pushing the costs up.

EEG may have some interesting potential, but perhaps not in the near future. The key before investing in any research is to thoroughly investigate existing (tried and tested) methodologies, such as usability testing and evaluations of persuasiveness of your site, to ensure that you are using the correct method to achieve your desired results.

Photo credit: Stone Mayson via Flickr/Creative Commons

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