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Using Eye Tracking for Website Design
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
At Enquiro, one thing that we have been doing for quite a while has been to use eye tracking to see how users interact with not only the search engine results pages but with individual sites. We have produced some of the leading white papers based on our eye tracking studies and offer website usability solutions using eye tracking.

I was forwarded a post on 23 Actionable Lessons from Eye Tracking. Not a bad post, while there was nothing really new, I thought that I would share some of the findings for folks who may not be aware of how eye tracking can be used as a powerful tool for website design.

When designing a site, many times designers overlook the obvious. Eye tracking research has shown that while interaction with websites can vary, there are some common items to consider. The following items are taken from the post mentioned above. While the findings may not be indicative of all sites and of all eye tracking studies, they do present an interesting topic of discussion.
  • Initial eye movement focuses on the upper left corner of the page. It shouldn’t be surprising that users look at webpages in this way, as most computer applications are designed with the top left hand side as the main focus. You can do your website a favor by keeping this format in mind when creating a design.

  • Readers ignore banners. Ads may be the bread and butter of your site, but studies have shown that readers largely ignore banner ads, often focusing for only a fraction of a second. -- We like to call this "banner blindness".

  • Type size influences viewing behavior. Want to change how people look at your page? Change the size of your font. Smaller fonts increase focused viewing behavior while larger fonts encourage scanning.

  • Shorter paragraphs perform better than long ones. Information on your page should be designed for the short attention span of most Internet users. EDITOR'S NOTE: This depends on the user and the stage of the research or buying funnel that they may be in. If they are early on in the research phrase they may be more prone to compile as much data as possible (providing that it is relevant to their interests.)

  • One-column formats perform better in eye-fixation than multi-column formats. Don’t overwhelm visitors to your site with too much information. Simpler really is better in some cases. -- Again this depends on the user. It states the obvious, as the less content there is to view, the higher/better the eye fixation will be. People can become easily distracted. The less distractions they have the better the experience they will receive.

  • Clean, clear faces in images attract more eye fixation. While they might look good with your design, abstract and artsy photos aren’t going to garner much reader attention.

  • Users spend a lot of time looking at buttons and menus. Because of this, you’ll want to put in some extra time making sure that yours are well-designed. After all, they not only draw a lot of eye fixation, they are one of the most important elements of your site.

  • Lists hold reader attention longer. One way you can break up the paragraphs in your content and keep users looking through your site is to make frequent use of a list format for your articles. Use numbers or bullet points to highlight important information within your content. It will make your site more scannable and easier for users to find the information that they’re looking for. -- It's all about user experience. Attention span for users may vary, but if you present your content in a nice clean manner, users will stick around longer. Site stickiness is something that most sites need to improve.

  • White space is good. While it might be tempting to put something in every corner of your page, it’s actually better to leave some of your site free of any text. Sites with too much going on tend to overwhelm users and they ignored a large part of the content.

  • Navigation tools work better when placed at the top of the page. Ideally, you don’t want readers to just look at the initial page they came to on your site, you want them to stick around and look at other interesting things as well. You can help send them in the right direction by making your navigation easy to find and use by placing it at the top of the page.
While we don't necessarily support all of the points mentioned in the post, there are some fundamental elements to consider when designing your site. If you would like to gain more information about using eye tracking to help out with a new design for your site, feel free to contact us and we'll discuss eye tracking options that can work for you.


posted by Jody @ 7:53 AM  
  • At 1:48 AM, Blogger James Breeze said…

    Glad I saw you in Google Alerts!

    It's great to see so much cutting edge research coming out of Enquiro.

    Perhaps you would like to contribute to our new Facebook eye tracking group?!


  • At 7:14 PM, Blogger Jody said…

    Thanks for stopping by James.

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