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Epiphany Search

Eye-tracking studies are great for understanding how the public view webpages, but it can often be hard to translate the results of these studies into real web design implementations. Recently I have been reading over studies such as Eyetrack 3, which was a study performed in 2003 by Steve Outing and Laura Ruel, as they observed 46 people view various mock information sites for an hour. After reading over the study I decided to pick out a few nuggets of information that web designers can often overlook.

  1. Visitors read in the shape of an F. Visitors were found to generally scan WebPages in the shape of an F. Make sure important elements of your content are in these key areas to keep readers engaged. Place headers, sub headers, bullet points, and highlighted text along these lines so readers will be enticed to read more
  2. Headings draw the eye. In the majority of cases the first things readers have been found to look at on a webpage are the headlines. Make sure your headlines are not obstructed by other items on the page and that they are engaging enough to draw the reader into looking further through your site.
  3. Text before Graphic. Contrary to popular belief, the first thing visitors look at on a webpage isn't the images. Most casual visitors will be arriving on your site looking for information, not images, so make sure your website is designed so that your text is most prominent.
  4. White space isn't a bad thing. Whilst it may be tempting to put something in every corner of your webpage, it's often better to leave some of your site free of any text as sites with too much going on tend to overwhelm users. Try to keep things simple and allow some open space for readers to rest their eyes.
  5. One-column formats perform better in eye-fixation than multi-column formats. Overwhelming visitors with too much information is easy. Simplicity is better in some cases.
  6. Readers ignore banners Ads. 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. If you're trying to make money from ads, you need to be creative in your ad placement or in the types of ads you have on your site.
  7. Visitors only look at a sub heading if it is of interests them. Don't put in sub headings just to stick to a particular format make sure that they are relevant and interesting.
  8. Visitors generally scan lower portions of a webpage. Use this to your advantage by giving readers something to latch onto when they're scanning your page. Highlight certain sections or create bulleted lists so information is easy to find and read on your page.
  9. Short paragraphs perform better than longer ones. Information on your webpage should be designed for the short attention span of most Internet users. Keep paragraphs and sentences short unless context influences otherwise, such as descriptions of products on a e-commerce sites.
  10. Navigation works better when placed at the top of the webpage. You don't want readers to look just at the initial page they arrive at on your site, you want them to stick around and explore their way around it. You can help send them in the right direction by making sure your navigation is easy to find and use by placing it at the top of the page.
  11. Visitors spend a lot of time looking at menus and buttons. 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.
  12. Lists hold reader attention. One way to break up the paragraphs in your content and keep visitors looking through your site is to make frequent use of a list format in your articles. Use numbers or bullet points to highlight important information within your content.