Readers prefer text over graphics.
May 8, 2000 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Readers prefer text over graphics. In much more scientific news a new study by Stanford University indicates that visitors to your website are significantly more likely to read the text on your website (92%) than look at your photos (64%). What do you think? Will this change the way you design your site?
posted by shmuel (4 comments total)
Personally I've always had a penchant for text. Never fond of the phrase "A picture's worth a thousand words" I am much like the people in this study. There are two things worth noting about the study, and I am not sure how they will figure into the usefulness of this information.

1) This study did not include new users.
2) This study was predominately about news.

I mean of course news readers are going to want text. I wonder how this would play out in a larger cross section of the browsing population.

The technology behind the study sure is interesting though. With that sort of equipment it will be very interesting to see what we learn about our users in the next couple of years.
posted by shmuel at 2:58 PM on May 8, 2000

it's gotten to a point where I'm unable to read the top of the screen because I just know there will be an image there

posted by starduck at 3:34 PM on May 8, 2000

It occurs to me that, for a long time now, savvy designers have sought to incorporate *both* text and images in a coherent, complementary fashion. Viewing content through a multimedia lens is certainly a simplified definition of what makes the Internet unique, and also an enticement for new users. In other words, if one searches for content on the web, they will constantly find images utilized to underscore the content or enliven the experience of being online.

When it comes to reading news, I generally prefer a quick interface like Yahoo! versus reading the same wire story on the considerably more bulky Washington Post site -- which I still visit for its proprietary features. I like reading for news too, if for no other reason than being the Nissan XTerra of news providers [design-wise]. However, I find usability issues pretty intriguing; I'm always excited to find a content-oriented site which employs a vivid design sensibility. In that sense, having played the web game for a good seven or eight years, I'm willing to plod through a few graphic-intensive sites in a quest for the occasional visionary one that I'll subsequently bookmark and frequent again. [This speaks to the importance of a portal like MetaFilter, IMHO: to filter out that which isn't worth our time.]

The numbers aren't really significant, anyway. If only 64% of a site's viewers are looking at the pictures, am I really likely to slim down my image usage substantially? No. Because the more important stat is that a majority of users are looking at BOTH images and text. Whether they're new to the Internet or not, one quickly learns that the two co-exist just about everywhere, like it or not.

Meanwhile, why is Stanford University spending so much time studying such limited cross-sections, with so little practical relevance?
posted by legibility at 3:47 PM on May 8, 2000

Well at least one interesting part of the story is the fact that people READ content on the Internet. This fact, as elementary as it may seem to most of us, has been highly contested by some people in the industry. This study also shows that the cross-section of people they studied had much higher attention spans than many people might have expected.

I wont argue with you at all about the need for images. I am an interface and graphic designer by trade. Images are necessary to give visual clues to your users. What I think this study does reinforce is the need for content. Sites designed entirely in Flash with no real content beyond whiz bang may make people say "Ohh" and "Ahh" but that's not enough. People will come but they most definitely do not spend significant amounts of time at these types of sites. You come, you watch, you leave.

Also, if nothing else the technology is cool. I love the concept of doing user-testing with one of those gizmos. I would love to be able to track my users eye while visiting my sites. If there are no other benefits to this study it will at the very least help to popularize this form of testing.
posted by shmuel at 5:35 PM on May 8, 2000

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