Whereas many believe website designers merely roam the corridors of art, graphic design and other creative fields, in fact today’s page builders are looking beyond mere right-brain-driven pursuits, culling science to help improve their work and, therefore, the site’s attractiveness to the end user.
Hence a new and proliferating series of research techniques known as “eye tracking” studies. The technology actually isn’t all that groundbreaking: advertising companies, television commercial marketing firms and directors and a host of others has been relying on the work for many years to fine-tune their ads for maximum attention from consumers. But with web designers now jumping on the eye-tracking research bandwagon in record numbers, the logistics of gleaning actionable insight is more readily available and efficiently understandable than ever before.
In essence, eye tracking helps us understand where a user’s visual attention goes; the route it takes to focus on a particular target; the time needed to find that target; how much attention a group of users give to different parts of the interface (known as heatmaps); and which screen regions capture a user’s attention and for how long.
Consider the following six insights that evolved from eye-tracking studies, and use them to improve the design of homepages and drive visual design and content strategies.
• Put more emphasis on headlines. Not only are they first things viewed by a visitor, they’re the most things viewed, capturing even more attention than pictures or navigation bars.
• Keep readable content in shorter lines. The eye-tracking studies show conclusively that users become engaged with shorter lines of the text and are also more likely to continue reading.
• Findings show that readers prefer white space and are deterred by larger and longer paragraphs that don’t distill information quickly enough. So, as with lines of text, keep paragraphs short and conclude ideas succinctly.
• If the purpose of your site is to sell a product, keep the number of options under control. Believe it or not, eye-tracking studies demonstrate that when offered too many choices, people become overwhelmed and often end up choosing nothing.
• Don’t dismiss the importance of image captions. They’re some of the most read copy on a website, so be sure to include important information there.
• Images with a human face are shown to be a major draw for viewers, as seeing a face gazing at them causes them to react and gaze back.