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Eye tracking study reveals 12 website tactics

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Eye tracking studies have revealed valuable information about how people read and interact with websites. One study, Eyetrack III, published a summary of their eye tracking results for news sites.

While this is just one eye tracking study focused on a particular type of site, I think there are instructive nuggets here for any informational website.

In no particular order, here are 12 results I found particularly interesting.

1.Headlines draw eyes before pictures. This might be surprising for some people since the trend has been to add photos and graphics specifically to draw the eye. Even I have been adding more photos to my blog to spice it up a bit.

But the participants in this study looked at headlines, especially in the upper left of the page, before they looked at photos when they landed on a page. So you can’t rely on eye candy to make up for poor headlines.

2. People scan the first couple words of a headline. Yes, long headlines can work. But this study suggests that people scan the first few words before deciding whether to continue reading.

This means you should front-load your headlines with the most interesting and provocative words. It’s also an argument for getting your keywords up front in headlines.

3. People scan the left side of a list of headlines. This is related to the previous point. When presented with a list of headlines or links, people will scan down the left side, looking at the first couple words, to find something they’re interested in. They don’t necessarily read each line beginning to end.

The implication is the same as before. Get your most mind catching words up front.

4. Your headline must grab attention in less than 1 second. Online readers are grazers. They move fast and nibble. If you want to hook them into spending time reading about something, you have to catch their attention very, very fast.

No nonsense. No meandering copy. No “throat clearing” to fill space. You have to get to the point instantly.

5. Smaller type promotes closer reading. This makes sense because smaller type is harder to read. So, to read it, you have to really focus. Larger type promotes scanning rather than reading.

Be careful with this one. No one is suggesting you shrink your web type to make it barely legible. I think the takeaway is to avoid making your type too big if you want close reading and avoid making it too small if you want to communicate rapidly.

6. Navigation at the top of the page works best. I find this interesting from a design point of view since many sites now use side navigation. I take this one with grain of salt, since the study also shows that side navigation can work fine.

The point may be that anything at the top of a page will be seen immediately. And since top navigation must be simple because of space limits, top navigation is probably much simpler to use.

7. Short paragraphs encourage reading. No surprise here. Even in print this is true. Big blocks of type look imposing and difficult, like reading a Faulkner novel where a paragraph goes on seemingly forever.

In online writing as in most ad writing, you have to forget normal paragraph development. Breaks should be logical, but they’re organized into a flow of ideas rather than distinct paragraphs.

8. Introductory paragraphs enjoy high readership. Just to be clear, an intro paragraph is a content summary that appears after the headline and before the main text. It’s common in some news writing. I’ve also used it in print ads which are designed in the form of an article, often called an “advertorial.”

The downside is that while intros get read, this study says they don’t affect readership of the main text. Maybe they help improve comprehension. The study doesn’t say.

9. Ad placement in the top and left positions works best. For anyone familiar with “heat maps,” this make sense. The eye tends to start in the upper left of a page. So an ad, or anything else, in that area will be noticed.

This is another one you have to be wary of. Ad blindness tends to happen when people get used to seeing ads in a particular place. So even the prime upper left area won’t work so well if you always put ads there.

10. People notice ads placed close to popular content. Obviously. This mimics the well-known idea in the offline world where ads are placed anywhere eyeballs point.

This is why ads right over a urinal work. Men look straight ahead, usually at a blank wall 12 inches from their face when standing at a urinal, so any reading material there will get read.

11. People read text ads more than graphic ads. Not everyone will agree with this one. But it makes sense if you consider that information is usually in the form of text. So people looking for information are looking for text, not pictures.

However, graphics can be useful for conveying information that is difficult to communicate in pure text, such as how something looks, mathematical information, before and after comparisons, etc. Which leads us to the last tactic.

12. Multimedia works better than text for unfamiliar or conceptual information. Reading relies on people having some understanding of the subject. The more familiar they are with the subject, the faster and easier reading is.

If you’re trying to describe a process, for example, a video or illustration conveys this information better than text.

Resource:http://www.directcreative.com/blog/eye-tracking-websites

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11 Striking Findings From an Eye Tracking Study

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

If you’ve got a spare 10 minutes today check out Eyetrack III who have published some great findings in their latest eye tracking studies of news and multimedia content sites (found via Direct Creative Blog).

There’s loads of juicy goodness in the full article but here are 11 of the main points that grabbed my attention:

  1. “Dominant headlines most often draw the eye first upon entering the page”
  2. “Smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior…. larger type promotes lighter scanning”
  3. “a headline has less than a second of a site visitor’s attention”
  4. “For headlines — especially longer ones — it would appear that the first couple of words need to be real attention-grabbers”
  5. “Navigation placed at the top of a homepage performed best”
  6. “Shorter paragraphs performed better in Eyetrack III research than longer ones.”
  7. “We found that ads in the top and left portions of a homepage received the most eye fixations”
  8. “Size matters. Bigger ads had a better chance of being seen”
  9. “Close proximity to popular editorial content really helped ads get seen”
  10. “the bigger the image, the more time people took to look at it.”
  11. “Our research also shows that clean, clear faces in images attract more eye fixations on homepages.

Resource: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/05/20/11-striking-findings-from-an-eye-tracking-study/

15 Important Research Findings You Should Know

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment
  1. Design is a key determinant to building online trust with consumers. For motivated users of an information site, bad design (busy layout, small print, too much text) hurts more than good design helps. – Sillence, Briggs, Fishwick, and Harris, 2004.

    Also see Stanford University’s “Guidelines for Web Credibility”.

  2. Layout on a web page (whitespace and advanced layout of headers, indentation, and figures) may not measurably influence performance, but it does influence satisfaction. – Chaperro, Shaikh, and Baker, 2005.
  3. Experience matters: Blue links are easier to click than black ones, even though black ones have higher visual contrast and are easier to see. – Van Schaik and Ling, 2003.
  4. It’s important to consider the users when you have a choice of icons, links, or both. Initial performance is best with the link alone. Frequent users can use either equally effectively. Icons are not faster, relative to text links alone. – Wiedenbeck, 1999.
  5. Rules of thumb for icons: Make them as large as feasible, place frequently used icons in a persistent task bar, and arrange them either in a square (first choice) or in a horizontal layout. – Grobelny, Karwowski, and Drury, 2005.
  6. The acceptance and impact of animation is enhanced when users are warned to expect it and allowed to start it when they want. – Weiss, Knowlton, and Morrison, 2002.
  7. Use of whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20 %. – Lin, 2004.
  8. A format of 95 characters per line is read significantly faster than shorter line lengths; however, there are no significant differences in comprehension, preference, or overall satisfaction, regardless of line length. – Shaikh, 2005.
  9. Applications vs. websites: In general, visual layout guidelines for GUIs also apply to the web, but there are differences to be aware of. For example, dense pages with lots of links take longer to scan for both GUI and web; however, alignment may not be as critical for web pages as previously thought. – Parush, Shwarts, Shtub, and Chandra, 2005.
  10. Narrative presentation enhances comprehension and memory. Narrative advertisements produce more positive attitude about the brand and a higher incidence of intent to purchase. – Escalas, 2004.
  11. On sites with clear labels and prominent navigation options, users tend to browse rather than search. Searching is no faster than browsing in this context.Katz and Byrne, 2003.
  12. Users will wait longer for better content. Users will wait between 8-10 seconds for information on the web, depending on the quality of the information. – Ryan and Valverde, 2003.
  13. Consumer purchase behavior is driven by perceived security, privacy, quality of content and design, in that order. – Ranganathan and Ganapathy, 2002.
  14. In 2001, Bernard found that prior user experience with websites dictated where they expected common web page elements to appear on a page. The same still holds true today: Users have clear expectations about where to find the things they want (search and back-to-home links) as well as the things they want to avoid (advertising). – Shaihk and Lenz, 2006.
  15. When assessing web accessibility under four conditions (expert review, screenreader using JAWS, automated testing via “Bobby”, and remote testing by blind users) those using screenreaders find the most issues, while automated testing finds the least number of accessibility issues. – Mankoff, Fait, and Tran, 2005.