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Lessons from Eye Tracking

Picture 2-6Seth Godin has posted a fascinating video on his blog which shows eye tracking results of Squidoo. Lots can be gleaned by watching where people look on a website and while Squidoo is a little different from most blogs there are a number of take home lessons that I can see (none are particularly new and it is worth noting that each example in the video is a little different).

Pictures draw the eye – I was interested in a number of the examples to see that as people scrolled down a page that the first thing they often looked at was the thumbnail pictures – it was almost as if these were what were getting people to scroll.

Headings work well – similarly to pictures – headings and sub headings were often the first thing to be read upon scrolling. Quite often people read nothing more than the headings at all. Particularly good were headings in contrasting colors.

Blocks of Text Avoided - Most Squidoo pages don’t have large blocks of text but even medium sized ones were rarely read all the way through. In fact I saw little evidence of much reading at all – lots of scanning. Where people did seem to read they rarely finished a paragraph.

Lists seem popular - On a few occasions lists seemed to make those being tracked stop and do a little reading (although quite often people didn’t get to the bottom of lists and just read the headings of each point).

Buttons and Menus worked – I was surprised how much time some users seemed to hover over navigational elements of the design.

Ads were avoided - This didn’t surprise me at all. Seth says that it was because AdSense ads are familiar to we users and that’s the reason – I’d also argue that because Squidoo use the default design for their AdSense ads and position them low on the right hand side that they are never going to perform well.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Yaro at Entrepreneur’s journey suggests that people are developping ad blindness to what he calls the ‘banner ads of web 2.0′ (paraphrase).
    This is a good reminder, if not entirely new, as you said..

    MOST IMPORTANT is how this ought to affect DESIGN.
    For me, using an excerpt javascript on my blog, this means I’ll have PICTURES RIGHT BEFORE the script cutoff, to encourage people to scroll and see more of the site.

    Ex.:

    Site Header
    text
    text
    text
    PIC
    click here to read full post
    text
    text

    NOTICE THE CAPS TO LET PEOPLE KNOW THE IMPORTANT PARTS OF A POST? There’s another idea…

    You may want to see how people look at an all-text site, to compare what kind of text gets more attention, when only text is around. Might give insights beyond using bold and headers.

  2. Dominic says:

    Yep, those AdSense adds could do with blending in a bit.

  3. It does seem like any graphic does get attention with some viewers. For some the eye follows the mouse but not the exact spot the mouse always is. Kinda reading the text next to the button to see what its for.
    I was surprised how many go to the upper right vs. upper left where Google suggests to place Adsense. Maybe because there is not navigation on the upper left?

  4. Eyetracking studies are always fascinating to me. Although generally I think they show the same results over and over (we are talking about one behavior – web surfing, so this makes sense) I think there’s still a lot to be learned.

    I used to really enjoy the stuff coming from Eyetools Research (http://blog.eyetools.net) but they haven’t updated their blog since July 2005 so who knows what’s going on.

    And you can also use Google Analytics in some ways for this, with their “site overlay” feature. It doesn’t give you eyetracking data but it does tell you where people are clicking. With a large enough data set you can start to learn about what people are reading, where, why, how…

  5. Michael Rew says:

    Blogs should use navigational buttons…big, fat, conspiciously colored arrow buttons with captions that read “Next Post” and “Previous Post.” Seriously. Click on my link and check out the buttons on my poetry site.

    At one point, my site was almost completely text-only. There were no buttons. “Next Poem” and “Previous Poem” links were text. When I switched from that format back to a button-navigation format, my page views went up noticeably…and stayed up.

    I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why blogs do not make post-to-post navigation easier. Even with this blog, if you have several posts I want to read, I cannot find links to the next or previous posts. So I have to hit IE’s back button to get back to my Web-based blog reader in order to get to the next post I want to read. Yes, I could click on the title link, but that requires scrolling all the way back up.

    So far, only Typepad seems to provide post-to-post navigation, but as text links, and then at the top of blog posts. Very annoying. The buttons should be on the side of the post and/or at the top and bottom of the post (unless your posts are small enough, like mine, to warrant just one set of buttons).

    This may not seem critical to regular blog readers who use blog reading software. But plenty of Web surfers do not have special blog reading software. They visit your site like they visit any other site. So a set of buttons would work well for them.

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  3. [...] Lessons from Eye Tracking: ProBlogger Blog Tips Eye tracking video of Squidoo shows what attracts users’ eyes: images, lists, headings. Most users avoid or merely skim large chunks of text. They avoid ads too. (tags: usability marketing webdesign advertising) [...]