Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The eyes have it: How we see web pages

Google's official blog has an interesting story on how users of their search results page move their eyes over the page. A "heat map" showing the intensity of where users' eyes tracked can be seen to the left. These maps are created by having a camera look at the user's eye as they look at the screen. The camera can tell which part of the screen is being looked at.

In the case of Google, the users' eyes were looking at the parts of the page with the most relevant information. This occurrence is not always the case. Frequently, web designers toss in lots of eye candy to pretty up the page. If you have something that is attracting the eye from what the user actually should be reading, then your site is probably going to be less satisfying to use.

This map is also telling in that it shows that people then to pop from place to place. Certainly, one would not expect to see this pattern with a book. This means that web designers need to create pages that are suitable for quick scanning. Use of font sizes, titles, icons, and graphics are as important as the content of the page. Well-written prose is not useful if people see it as a big block of dense text to be avoided.


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