Tracking Mouse Activity
Anatoly Zenkov offers a tool (download for PC and Mac) that tracks your mouse’s movement across the screen. Turn on the utility, minimize it and go about your business on the computer. After an hour or four, pull up the Mouse Tracker screen to see scratches and splotches, i.e. mouse movement and periods of mouse inactivity, respectively.
Zenkov illustrated the utility’s use in tracking mouse movements in a program, e.g. Photoshop. What tools do you use the most, what repetitive movements do you make, where does your hand rest? I used the utility yesterday (on no program in particular) for a couple of hours and have two “Pollocks,” as Flowing Data refers to them: one for my left hand and the other for my right. Normally right-handed, I now mouse with my left hand to rest my right hand and alleviate carpal tunnel symptoms. The captures show how much less I use my left hand (fewer lines, more rest dots) than my right (lots more lines, fewer rest periods) in any given duration, but get the same amount of work done.
Fast Company also features this tool and says, “You could almost use this as an ad-hoc tool for honing your site’s UI, since it allows you to see exactly how people are interacting with their screen.” I mostly disagree with this take because what the tool tracks is mouse movements on pre-made layouts. In other words, my mouse movements in GMail are going to look a certain way because GMail is designed that way, not because I choose to interact with the screen in that manner. What might be useful is assessing where people rest their hands or don’t go at all on the screen.
Try it out and send us your results!