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FLIGHT RECORDER FAQ

What is FLIGHT RECORDER, in general terms?

FLIGHT RECORDER is an application that can be used to collect people's real-time reactions to messages, advertising, and web pages.  FLIGHT RECORDER is ideally suited to assist in identifying particular elements of advertising messages, copy, and layout that should be further probed in a flexible face-to-face depth interview or online Automated Depth Interview.  FLIGHT RECORDER is uniquely suited for usability and navigability studies of web pages.

How does FLIGHT RECORDER identify elements of messages that should be probed?

Surveys that are typically conducted online tend to merely mimic paper survey instruments, collecting respondents' thoughts and feelings via clicks on check boxes and multiple-choice radio buttons.  FLIGHT RECORDER adds time and place measures.  These measures better enable the online researcher to study the elements of a message that attract attention, elements that require greater thought, issues that are more quickly recognized, and such.  FLIGHT RECORDER does this by being able to track a user's movements (not mere clicks) within a single page, and this is done in real time.  FLIGHT RECORDER additionally allows us to interact with the respondent's behaviors by creating new stimuli on the fly.

What does FLIGHT RECORDER do that I can't already do using measures of page hits and click-throughs?

Click-throughs on hyper-text or hyper-images only provide us with a measure of a final decision with regard to where a person wants to focus their attention.  We can use these to measure how a person navigates through a web site and to measure the effectiveness of one attention-grabbing element over another.  However, these measures cannot easily track how a person navigates through a single page of a print advertisement.  FLIGHT RECORDER allows us to trace a person's movements within a single web page or a single page of advertising copy, and it does so in real time.

FLIGHT RECORDER would be used when we are more interested in understanding how a person gets confused in navigating a web site, how a person reads an advertisement, which parts of an advertisement are more interesting or confusing, which parts of an advertisement or web page are initial attention attractors, and such.

What does FLIGHT RECORDER do that I can't already do with a standard online survey?

By adding time and place measures, we gain important insights to how a person is thinking.  Survey radio buttons and check boxes merely provide us with pre-defined answers to pre-defined questions.  FLIGHT RECORDER allows us to track where a person is looking in a message or on a web page.  Rather than ask a person what first attracted her or his attention to an advertisement and whether the copy flows well, we can observe that a person was, say, first attracted to the image of an ad, that they spent more time on a particular bullet point, that they returned to one bullet point after reading another, etc.  Rather than ask a person if they can find their way through a web site, we can observe that they quickly found something or that they took too long or too many tries to find what they wanted.  We know that people will leave a web site if they cannot quickly find what they want, but they will not be able to tell us the likelihood of that in a standard survey.

What does FLIGHT RECORDER do that I can't already do in a face-to-face depth interview?

As in a face-to-face depth interview, FLIGHT RECORDER gives us indirect measures of a person's reactions.  Face-to-face depth interviews are so important because they are very rich in the insights that we gain - we learn things that we might not, a priori, have considered.  They give us answers to questions that we might never have considered asking. FLIGHT RECORDER allows us to gain qualitative insights that we might not have considered in the pre-defined questions of a survey.

FLIGHT RECORDER is able to tap indirect measures that even a face-to-face interview might not reveal.  For example, we can show someone an advertisement and ask for their feelings, observing how long they take to view the ad and the sorts of things that they first mention when discussing their reactions.  However, a face-to-face interview cannot reveal directly what items first attracted a person's attention or the ordering in which the person viewed individual elements of the ad.  A face-to-face interview can reveal the total time that a person spent to view an ad, but it cannot reveal the proportion of that time that was spent on individual elements of that ad. 
 


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How does FLIGHT RECORDER work - what are the technical details?

FLIGHT RECORDER works by collecting two measures: time and place.  We know where a person is looking, and we know when they were looking there.  This allows us to track the ordering in which they viewed particular elements of an advertisement and allows us to to track the amount of time that they spent in viewing these elements.

FLIGHT RECORDER collects these measures by observing where a person places the mouse pointer, used as a surrogate for where the eye is focused.  Ideally, we would like to be able to actually measure a person's eye movements, but doing so is simply not possible in a real-world online environment and is cumbersome and expensive in an offline laboratory.  FLIGHT RECORDER mimics this by altering the elements of the advertisement such that the respondent must move the mouse to show us where they are looking.  Elements in the periphery are out of focus, brought into focus with the movement of the mouse.

Note that elements on the page do not necessarily have to change focus.  It is possible, for example, to track the movement of the mouse cursor on a web page or standard survey, whereby the respondent is unaware that we are observing levels of indecision in answering questions.  We can also measure changes in other than mouse movement - the indecision time in typing answers on a keyboard, for example, can also be measured.

What does FLIGHT RECORDER do that anyone else couldn't copy?  Why use SyKronix to conduct an Automated Depth Interview?

Nobody has ever cornered the market on good ideas.  FLIGHT RECORDER uses programming techniques that anyone else could develop -- given enough time, expertise, and resources to do so.  The technology of FLIGHT RECORDER will, we hope, one day be commonplace in our industry.  As far as we know, however, no one else has yet been able to duplicate the capabilities of FLIGHT RECORDER to a point that is economically viable.

What special equipment or software is required to conduct a FLIGHT RECORDER project?

If the interview is conducted online, the respondent only needs a normal modem connection and a state of the art computer running Netscape.  The online interviews and surveys that we create are intended to download and run quickly through a normal modem connection.  The computer must have at least an 800x600-pixel screen with at least 16-bit color capability, but this has been a low-end standard for desktop computers sold in the last several years.  Also, the user must be using a recent edition of Netscape.  These requirements are to ensure that stimuli are displayed and measurements are made consistently for all respondents.  These parameters are checked when the interview respondent logs in to the FLIGHT RECORDER Web site.

How long does it take to set up a FLIGHT RECORDER project?

Short answer: a few days.  A single ad page can, in some cases, be scanned, programmed, and posted on the Web in a single day.

Each project is necessarily a customized job.  Every advertisement is different, having different images and bullet points to be studied.  However, FLIGHT RECORDER is built with reusable program modules whereby the greatest amount of work is to prepare the advertisement scan for use by FLIGHT RECORDER.  There is a fixed amount of time that must be invested into each advertising page in the study.  There is also a variable amount of time that is associated with the number of elements that are of focus in each advertising page, and a variable amount of time associated with  the number of questions that are being used in any accompanying surveys.

This amount of preparation and attention to detail is greater than would be the case in a study that used only face-to-face depth interviews.  However, it is really part of the time that would be invested in the development of a topical guide for face-to-face interviews: the online interview is the topical guide.   Since there is no need to travel or to schedule interview facilities, recruiting and interviewing can begin immediately.

How much does a FLIGHT RECORDER project cost?

Financially, about the same as the costs of a professional qualitative interviewer in a face-to-face depth interview study.  If FLIGHT RECORDER is used with an online Automated Depth Interview, then there is a savings in the financial costs associated with interviewer travel between cities and with facility rental.   FLIGHT RECORDER costs are primarily made up of the time for programming the topical guide - about one day of staff costs per advertising page or about one day of staff costs per three flat web pages to be studied.  If an advertisement is being tested with FLIGHT RECORDER technology during a face-to-face depth interview, then the time to prepare the FLIGHT RECORDER materials will be in addition to the interview costs.

The largest savings in conducting an online Automated Depth Interview using FLIGHT RECORDER is in time.  Qualitative pre-testing of an advertisement or web site can be started and completed within days rather than weeks.

Run a Tunnel Vision demo of FLIGHT RECORDER.