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Let the Eyes Do the Layout
How a web page is REALLY viewed

 12:28 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Let the eyes do the page layout:

[poynterextra.org ]

It was nice to see some "fact" back up my "feel" for site design.

Top left is the prime real estate, followed by top and left. I have always thought wasting company logos and navigation links in these areas pound foolish and now I have data to wave at clients. Love baffling with stats!

Interesting stuff all the way through on heading size/format, text vs. image content, text vs. image ads, etc.

And then there is the rest of the site ...



 2:14 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Couple of thoughts here:

1. "Dominant headlines most often draw the eye first upon entering the page -- especially when they are in the upper left, and most often (but not always) when in the upper right."

I would think this MIGHT be because people are CONDITIONED to look there first because that's where the site has CONSISTENTLY positioned this info.

2. "Smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior (that is, reading the words), while larger type promotes lighter scanning."

Major quibble here. I tend to believe that more time spent on smaller type is due to more difficulty in simply PARSING the actual words rather than to capturing the reading mind. Larger type actually produces more COGNITION faster and with less strain.

I'd bet there's more for me to address, but we're in the middle of a HUGE thunderstorm, so got to post this and be ready to "dodge"....


 1:07 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Very interesting article. It only focuses on news websites. It also does not address the fold, whether users will scroll below it or not. It would be interesting to see if differenet types of websites like shopping, forums, etc. have the same behavior pattern or different.


 1:25 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

"I would think this MIGHT be because people are CONDITIONED"

Yea, I'd probably agree with that. But, in the same respect, why try to "train" them to look anywhere else. People also naturally read from left to right - another reason they probably immediately look left. I think we have to make navigation as simple as we can to increase the site usability, which in turn will help increase conversions.

Definitely see your point on #2 as well. I think it's been said many times and is included in most well hailed books on web copy that Internet readers as a whole tend to scan. So if you make the text smaller, not "pop out" the important parts with bold - as said it above, it "forces" the reader to read longer.

But, the question is, are they "happy" about reading longer - or do they feel that they aren't finding what they need quickly and easily? Is creating that "focus" creating a good user experience or a bad one. Only your own usability testing will probably give you an answer for your specific site.


 1:31 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

It also does not address the fold, whether users will scroll below it or not

there is a brief mention of it, in the bit about hotspots, but you have to scroll down lol :)


 4:11 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Rae, those are very good points too. I wasn't actually meaning I was disagreeing with the points completely (didn't have that much time to type what I REALLY meant because of the weather!), just that those jumped at me immediately in a quick-and-dirty run through, and it didn't seem as if the article addressed YOUR points at all.

I'm with you - why try to change already conditioned/learned behavior? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.... I was just surprised that the article (as much as I read of it quickly) made no mention of the left to right background of Western readers, or the fact that net searchers most likely want to know asap if what they're looking at is actually on the page upon which they've landed - which to my mind precludes incredibly small font sizes....


 4:49 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

I tried to digest a lot of this late last night, have to go back to it again when I have much more time. My initial reaction was Wow! Look at all of this great info, and it's FREE.

Then I realized that it ain't all cut and dried. The points of view of the folks analyzing the info aren't the same as ours. Their interpretations are going to be different, and each of our interpretations is going to be different from one another's because we have different objectives,.

Small type vs. large type is a case in point. If my objective is a longer time on site and having the reader delve into the material, then the analysts suggest that smaller type is the way to go.

If I want to quickly pull the visitor to a money page, then it appears that it's large type and the click I'm after.

I think this could be a great tool. It's going to be interesting to see the different interpretations.


 5:01 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's interesting information, but I think the "beefs" mentioned in this article [poynter.org] (toward the end) are well worth considering.

  • The news content was 'neutered' - why not study people viewing actual news headlines on a real news site?
  • It involved only 51 people in San Francisco.
  • etc.
  • chrisnrae

     5:24 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I think if anything, the chart of where the eye moves once hitting a page is interesting - and only goes to solidify that people are looking for something to pop out to them. I would venture to guess that it's why the eye movement is all over the page and not simply "focused" on the first text they see.

    • Does this page have what I'm looking for?
    • What does this site "do"?
    • Can this page help me buy a product/learn about what I want to know about?

    IMHO, you want to make the answers to those questions immediately answerable. When their eyes move around the page in that fashion (or any other fashion should that study not be indicitive of the "majority" of web users) you want them to figure out, yes, this site has what I need, it sell products/provides information and I can see they have the product/information I'm looking for.

    People shouldn't have to "study" to get the gist of a page, they should only need to scan. If you can make them aware that the page has what they need immediately, they are likely to stay, read the text anyway and have a good user experience.

    If they need to "search" for the answers to their natural immediate questions, they may get frustrated and click back or simply be annoyed out of the buying mood.


     6:22 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

    People also naturally read from left to right

    That's also conditioned... Many Asian languages are written top-to-bottom, Hebrew is traditionally written right-to-left, etc. But I suppose that's nitpicking, unless you're targeting Israeli or Chinese customers in large numbers.

    I think more to the point is that if people have to hunt for the information they're looking for, they'll leave... if you make it easy to find, they're more likely to stay. The only relevant universal truth about where people look first when reading is that all languages start writing at the top of the page, and work their way downwards, so top of the page is prime real-estate no matter who your audience is. However, I don't think a top navigation menu with a good logo is a waste of space at all.

    A quality logo at the top of the page can instantly confer credibility and professionalism to a visitor, a good 'tagline' with the logo can immediately tell the visitor what you do/offer to them, and a good navigation structure at the top of the page (which means *very* carefully chosen link titles) can give them a quick general overview of what else your website has in store (besides the specific tidbit they came looking for), and possibly draw them in to browsing through the site if the landing page isn't exactly what they were after.

    After that, you just need to make sure the main content of the page has a concise, accurate and well-written headline just beneath the header area to draw them in to read more.


     9:41 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

    "I don't think a top navigation menu with a good logo is a waste of space at all"

    I agree, especially if it is a large site. I think you have to do what makes sense for the specific site. Top navs can work very well in the right type of site.


     1:59 pm on Sep 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

    I'm not done with reading the eyetrack study yet, so i'll just point you to two further studies that are helpful when deciding where to place which functions on a page:

    1) Developing Schemas for the Location of Common Web Objects [psychology.wichita.edu]

    2) Examining User Expectations for the Location of Common E-Commerce Web Objects [psychology.wichita.edu]

    ...both are non-commercial, and non-profit pages, from psychology.wichita.edu

    >> And then there is the rest of the site ...

    peter andreas

     2:49 am on Sep 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

    Very interesting. I have seen other reports which said top right was better as the eye tended to end up and dwell there after scanning left to right. Also saw that bottom right was better too! (can't remember where I saw this though as it was several years ago) so now i don't know what to believe I suppose the eye scanner results are pretty conclusive though.

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