back

Four Revealing Eye-tracking Studies

Eyetracking hardware is expensive. Very expensive. Yet, eyetracking can be one of the most illuminating usability experiments for you website.

After all, if you know what's catching your visitors' attention, you can make better decisions about what elements to place where.

Assuming that you're not at the stage to implement a full eye-tracking study in-house, what can you learn from studies on other sites? Here are five eyetracking tests (and links to lots more info). Use them to help you judge where and what to put on your site.

The F-Shape

Probably the most famous concept in eyetracking and web usability is Jakob Nielsen's "F-Shape". His early eyetracking study showed that online readers view websites in an "f pattern" as shown below.

F-Shape tracking example

For your website, that means getting your most important content to the top and left of any web page. Full story and analysis at the Alertbox site.

Google Results

A 2009 post on the Google Blog outlines a few of the results from their own eyetracking studies. One revealing image demonstrates how people view a Google search results page. It shows that if you're not near the top of the search results, you're not likely to get seen, let alone clicked on:

Google eye tracking example

Poynter Institute

The Poynter Institute looks at web usability from the news and media content angle.

This enormous post contains lots of interesting info (including their claim that smaller fonts stop readers from scanning your copy and encourage full reading). They also include a simplified "priority map" to help you judge where to put ads and crucial calls to action:

Poynter Institute tracking example

Gazehawk

Did we say that eye-tracking studies always have to expensive? We take it back. A new company called Gazehawk have developed a system that uses standard webcams for basic user testing.

Another company, Webdistortion, ran their own tests on some of the world's biggest blogs using Gazehawk. Though the results are only based on very small samples, they're still revealing, such as this map of Smashing Magazine (note the elements and colours that stand out for the reader):

Webdistortion tracking example

Why does usability matter?

In the end, eyetracking is just one more tool in a professional website designer's arsenal. It helps you guide people through your site by understanding where their focus lies. It encourages smooth interactions and increases user engagement. Get in touch if you want to talk about improving your site.

8 May 2011
Blog Author
Oliver Pluckrose
11 Cavendish Square
UTC Aerospace
Pauline Books & Media
Vulpine
CO-OP
Phones 4U
Manoto 1
4D Model Making Materials
Yell
British Safety Council
Experian
Great Eastern
Enigma Quests
Foyles
Iceland
ASDA
Millerhare
Reed Business Information
Harris Hill
Faber and Faber
Trait Online
Criteo Live
Red Umbrella
Capita
Scottish Court
Compare Hospitality
British Gas
All So Pro
Asit
Novartis
Centrica
Homebase
Nine Avenue
Grazing Food
Petainer
Marshall
Alliance Boots
Grazing Events
SmoQue Grill
Companies and Markets
King's Fund
LSE Lighting
Argos
UCLH
British Airways
eGigger
Saudi Aramco
Gaimerz
Jaguar Landrover
Michael Northcroft
Fan Quake
Informa plc
See how we can help you
We would love to talk to you about your app or website development plans. Call us now on +44 (0) 800 029 1425 or visit our Contact Us page for alternative ways to get in touch.