The Eyes Have It
September 15, 2004 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Eyetracking for fun and profit. The Eyetrack III study observed 46 people for one hour as their eyes followed mock news websites and real multimedia content. This article summarizes their observations. Too impatient to read? Cool transparent heatmap overlay gizmo here. Via the rather cool creativebits.
posted by stonerose (10 comments total)
Yes, statsgeeks - we know it's a small n.
posted by stonerose at 12:11 PM on September 15, 2004

Thanks, stonerose. That heatmap stuff is very cool (except it's almost impossible, even at "full" opacity, to read the number of clicks). And the explanation of the study is very well-put together - no doubt with an "eye" toward the most effective visual communication.

What I'm most entertained by, though, is the fact that I've seen this linked from Romenesko (because it's Poynter) for over a week, and thought "I'll get around to that, I'm sure it's interesting," but it wasn't till I saw it here that I actually clicked through. Context - another research area to consider?
posted by soyjoy at 12:40 PM on September 15, 2004

They have an eye tracker you can play with at SF's exploratorium.
posted by milovoo at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2004

posted by jacquilynne at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2004

This reminds me of a scene from -- I think it was Scanners (stupid early-80's horror flick). A media company was performing tests tracking eye movement in a similar fashion. One of the people running the operation asks the protagonist to "try it out," whereby he's shown a clip of an upcoming commercial.

The guy's eyes immediately zero-in on the breasts of the girl in the commercial. The person running the program then re-configures the commercial automatically to change orientation, and the protagonist then starts looking at the actual product advertised.

Um. Anyway.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:00 PM on September 15, 2004

sorry civil, but scanners kicked ass.
posted by bob sarabia at 5:40 PM on September 15, 2004

It wasn't Scanners.

It was Looker (1981)

and Bob, scanners was really schlocky - imagine if the main two characters (male/female) could act.
posted by filmgeek at 9:39 PM on September 15, 2004

Now this is the kind of stuff Jakob has failed to provide recently. (Is it just me, or has Jakob stopped giving useful information and started being a wage-slave to shopping sites wanting to boost their click-through rate?)

Certain bits apply to blog posting I'd say - the highlighted/headline text tends to get read and the blurb doesn't - you need to 'sell' your link to people in the brief highlighted text, or people won't bother to look, or read further, or go click.
posted by BigCalm at 1:53 AM on September 16, 2004

Before you take all this to hear, check out the response to this study here: It knocks away at several points and much of the methodology.

(what it comes down to:)
Homepage designers can still take away some useful nuggets from this research:

* Content compels a glance as much as anything in the designer's toolbox. You can catch a gaze with a surprising word or phrase (note the "FCUK" example) even downscreen on an ugly page. But even a page full of objects designed precisely to attract attention will draw yawns if the audience finds nothing worthy of holding attention.
* Navigation? The only safe thing to say is it's a bad idea to place primary navigation three screens down. You can take that to the bank.
* A headline on the Web serves as a call to action, in a different way from print. Heads written to fit print layouts may or may not succeed as Web enticements to click through. When in doubt, rewrite -- and if you do, consider putting the "power words" in front unless it's too awkward.
* With the possible exception of text ads, both Eyetrack III and the Magic 8-Ball seem to offer the same forecast for display advertising on homepages: "Outlook Not Good." Even as standard formats grow in size, and even as designers try them in new positions on the page, eventually those blinking, flashing commercial messages fade into site visitors' peripheral vision.
posted by joe_murphy at 7:15 AM on September 16, 2004

It wasn't Scanners. It was Looker (1981).

Aaah, yes! Much thanks go to the very appropriately nick'd filmgeek.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:54 AM on September 16, 2004

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