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11 Striking Findings From an Eye Tracking Study


image by s-revenge

If you’ve got a spare 10 minutes today check out Eyetrack III who have published some great findings in their latest eye tracking studies of news and multimedia content sites (found via Direct Creative Blog).

There’s loads of juicy goodness in the full article but here are 11 of the main points that grabbed my attention:

  1. “Dominant headlines most often draw the eye first upon entering the page”
  2. “Smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior…. larger type promotes lighter scanning”
  3. “a headline has less than a second of a site visitor’s attention”
  4. “For headlines — especially longer ones — it would appear that the first couple of words need to be real attention-grabbers”
  5. “Navigation placed at the top of a homepage performed best”
  6. “Shorter paragraphs performed better in Eyetrack III research than longer ones.”
  7. “We found that ads in the top and left portions of a homepage received the most eye fixations”
  8. “Size matters. Bigger ads had a better chance of being seen”
  9. “Close proximity to popular editorial content really helped ads get seen”
  10. “the bigger the image, the more time people took to look at it.”
  11. “Our research also shows that clean, clear faces in images attract more eye fixations on homepages”
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 and LinkedIn.
  1. Interesting findings!

    Of course, some are quite obvious – like “Dominant headlines most often draw the eye first upon entering the page” and “Size matters. Bigger ads had a better chance of being seen” (do we really need research to know these?? :-) )

    But some are “eye” openers – like “Smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior” and “clean, clear faces in images attract more eye fixations on homepages”.

    Do check out the detailed findings too – it has some superb info on homepage layout, hot spots, etc. Great tips for optimal ad placement.

  2. All 11 points are good, it appears that there’s a bit of psychology method in it. Those article should be a great information for copywriters….

  3. Great post and link. With all the discussion about traffic and copy, not enough people stop to factor in human viewing behaviors. Will RT this. : )

  4. Thats a very interesting study. It provides good empirical evidence for much that i had already expected. Especially in terms of ad placement.

    Using people faces makes such sense too, but what is meant by “dominant headlines”? Bigger text?

  5. I am not surprised by any of these findings but it doesn’t make them worthless either. I’ve found my short paragraph and short entry posts tend to grab the most attention.

    When it comes to headlines I try to write something interesting, but don’t usually spend a lot of time on them.

  6. Very interesting. A good base for experimenting with layout.

    I was hoping they had examined “reader retention” on narrow columns vs. wider columns, though, but couldn’t find anything about it. The body text column of the posts on my blog is narrower than on most other blogs I’ve seen, and I get higher numbers for pageviews per visit than the averages I’ve seen quoted for a typical blog. It would’ve been interesting to get an indication of whether this could be related to column width or not.

  7. I can see this having definite implications in redesigning a blog. I’ll be sure to use these pointers when going over to my new domain.

    An open door advertisement uses: Movement attracts attention. .. Can this be utilized to design a better blog? I wonder…

  8. Thank you for condensing that long article down for us. Very interesting. That will help a lot in design and headline development for sure!

  9. It all has to do with influence on the subconscious. Also, don’t forget that if you have a picture of a person on your homepage that their face is a happy expression or else it translates negative for the reader and can even make the reader’s mood dampen….

  10. Is this current though? There’s no date on it and the URL has “2004” in the title.

  11. I’m in the process of upgrading my blog in order to highlight the most appealing content, which is centered on my cartoon caption contest and my weekly cartoon posting. Right now , I receive 100-200 comments (caption submissions) and I need to place ads along side the comments. This post is valuable to anyone wishing to either tweak their site, or upgrade it from top to bottom (the full article on Direct Creative was very helpful).

  12. I found #2 interesting. I’ll have to pay attention to see if I focus more on smaller text. I do know that I tend to scan sources that I’m not familiar and only only focus on the text once the source has gained credibility with me.

  13. disagree with number 8, the 125×125 ads get my attention more than the bigger banner ads.

  14. Berry says: 05/20/2009 at 3:26 am

    Number 7 is interesting. Ads perform better when they are at the top and left of a site. Is this because regular web users that frequent large sites are used to finding the nav in the top left?

    This could be a valid finding or it could just be that checking out the top and the left is part of a learned website behaviour pattern. Moving navs from the top and left to clear space for ads would break that.

  15. I’m not particularly surprised by any of these, except the font/images — I think there are a ton of ways to leverage this information when designing a business blog and/or social media presence (like a Facebook page). There is definitely a lot to be said about really focusing on your audience and their behaviors (eye tracking and beyond) that can mean significant success or failure when publishing content online. Great stuff, thanks for sharing.

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  16. #2 is very interesting…I’ll have to remember that one specifically.

  17. I guess I was most surprised by ads on the left side of the page getting more notice. Most sites, including this one post their ads on the right side of the page… Time for a redesign Darren? I know that I’m considering it!

  18. Some of those study findings are not very surprising since many people read from left to right…..it makes it fairly easy to notice why ads perform better on the left and top portions.

    The findings do help to emphasize that Headlines are very important in getting the attention of readers. Headlines are something that I struggle with constantly. Sometimes I get it right, and other times, they could use improvement.

    No. 2 is a very interesting finding with regards to type settings.

  19. Al 11 points are really useful, be you a seasoned blogger or attempting your first post! Cheers Darren :-)

  20. Heather says: 05/20/2009 at 4:59 am

    i don’t know, i think it might be from 2004. i’d be curious how much of the data holds up half a decade later, especially as how people use the web changes…

  21. I always understood that a viewer’s eyes automatically went to the left after scanning headlines and that this was the most important part of a website.

  22. Justice44 says: 05/20/2009 at 6:56 am

    “Shorter paragraphs performed better in Eyetrack III research than longer ones”

    I have no problem agreeing with this. Less is more. When readers easily understand your ad, they are more likely to buy. When they are confused by your ad, they are most likely not to buy.

  23. Nothing really new, here…and regarding ads, “being seen” definitely does not equate to efficacy.

    Banner ads are almost always ineffective no matter where you put them and how big they are. In fact, that large, annoying flash ad could actually increase resentment towards your brand.

    Eye tracking is a great tool, but should supplement, not replace, a hearty user-centered design practice.

  24. I wonder if the ads that took more of the veiewers time, up there in the top left hand section of the page, got more clicks or conversions to sales?

    I tend to care a fair bit more about conversion rate and engagement levels than viewing time.

    Were the ads in the top left corner expected to be navigation, and not ads?

  25. “We found that ads in the top and left portions of a homepage received the most eye fixations” Hmmmm… it is a little obvious but it is interesting to see that many “big bloggers” have their “sponsors” on the right sidebar where , apparently, there is no much attention. :-)

  26. Interesting. Also interesting in the sense that it means that nearly all blog designs suck for the purpose of serving ads.

    Also, check out s-revenge’s flickr. It’s freaking amazing.

  27. #7 is really interesting – I always thought it was the top right…

    BTW, those eyes in that picture are kind of scary!

  28. It’s quite obvious as it is a known fact that we humans get a great majority of information through the eyes. Unless a more “tangible” web comes up, we’re pretty much stuck to the visual web.

  29. I do not like all this “scanning” type of reading.

    When I “scan” over a text I got very little information out of it.

    Only a cautious read can really satisfy a truly interested reader.

    But they are becoming an endangered species these days.

  30. Marketers will tell you that most people scan pages of a “hard copy” mag or newspaper from top Left to bottom Right – maybe same could be said for computer screen shots!

  31. Great! will be useful in improving my blog layout. Thanks Darren.

  32. This research is from 2004. We find that the way people read content on screens has definitely changed over the last five years. Users are far more aware of patterns and make assumptions based on their pattern perception.

    If you read the background to the study, it gives you an insight into the perception of how users read the web at that time.


    Nice study, but out of date.

  33. This is fascinating – I am redesigning my blog now – so this information could help a bit in terms of trying to capture people and keep them there – big catchy headlines, with smaller text. Hmmm.

  34. Nice post……but this not enough to get a blog award….

  35. I guess I need glasses because I have preferred larger type instead of smaller type (point #2) because it is less of a strain on my eyes.

    Either that or be prepared to zoom in on the small print.

    Thanks for the great info

  36. Thank you for the tips! We should all keep that in mind when designing a website.

  37. Very true findings. But many people already know these things and place their ads accordingly.

  38. The point that I find very interesting is #2 – smaller type encourages more focussed user behaviour.

    That would mean to me that you use the headline to draw the immediate attention and that you then have some smaller text to really drive home your message.

    Thanks for the points and the link.

  39. I have to agree with most of these. Not sure about ads on the left. They work better on the right for me, especially the 160X600 half-page banners.

  40. Yeah size always take a huge matter is blogging. I have seen so many blogs whom were using big fonts and i found that big fonts and good spacing between font effect good to reader and visitors.

  41. Looks like it agrees with what Adsense says about the optimum position of ads. So I take it that larger pictures, which are not ads, distracts the reader from the money earning ads. So there should be no real incentive to add pictures to your post unless it really helps to drive a point in.

    Am currently having one 250×250 ad on the right column. See how that goes. Cheers!

  42. Good summary of useful tips. Just to point out, Eyetrack III was done in 2004 so there may be fresher data out there

  43. Arroxane says: 05/21/2009 at 12:41 am

    I’d love to see these types of studies done for native Asian and Right-to-Left speakers. I’m certain it’ll be enlightening.

  44. I agree with #5. I always looking for something that is on the top every time I visit a site. It’s really a good place for ads.

  45. Interesting find, but I think #7 is counterintuitive and debatable, since we read from left to right (in English anyway), and therefore heaving up ads on the top and left sections of a blog might make the blogger appear greedy and turn away many readers.

  46. I’m really liking this article… there are definitely a few things I haven’t considered. Now I’m holding back that temptation to go and push my ads to left side of the page lol.

    Just kidding. Does anyone know of a good heatmap app for WordPress? I’ve come across one but couldn’t get it to work. I’m not sure if that will help me get a better idea of where people eyes go but I will at least know where they tend to click.

  47. Really interesting study, but i dont know how many have really made use of this.

  48. Darren will any of the above change your site? or is this old hat to you?

  49. I really love this scientific stuff, because it proves over and over again that i do it right :P just kidding i really love it, because you have a scientific tested foundation where you can line your design up with. You have really good points you can follow when you are designing you blog with your points in mind and this is tested by professionals with eye tracking software and all this equipment, so it’s very likely to be true :P
    thanks Darren for the nice post

  50. I agree with this study. The hits on the ads had been increased after I put bigger ads at the header of the blog. And yeah, shorter paragraph is easier to read =)

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