Eye-tracking: Where do readers look first?
To catch a site visitor’s eye, it helps to know where that eye is likely to look. Eye-tracking studies give us the most likely locations.
Eye-tracking technology unobtrusively follows a reader’s eye movements as the person views a page. The equipment records on a “gaze map” where the person’s eyes roam and where they stop to read. Several gaze maps are then plotted on a “heat map” that highlights the areas where readers looked the most.
Yahoo! eye-tracking studies reveal a general pattern to the way people browse webpages:
- People scan the main sections of a page to determine what it’s about and whether they want to stay longer.
- They make decisions about the page in as little as three seconds.
- If they decide to stay, they pay the most attention to the content in the top part of the screen.
When people do decide to read a page, their eyes sweep horizontally from left to right, often focusing on a roughly triangular area in the upper-left corner of a webpage, or the upper-left corner of the webpage’s main block of content. But this pattern varies depending on a page’s layout and purpose. For example, a person’s eyes will move differently over a photo-heavy slideshow, a text-heavy blog, or a page with a two- or three-column layout.
This rendering of a heat map indicates where visitors’ eyes traveled on a webpage. Here, red and yellow indicate the areas that visitors’ eyes spent the most time on. The X’s indicate mouse clicks. (Map generated by Eyetools software.)
This Yahoo! Finance guide loads important words like “savings” and “budget” in the upper-left corner of the content area. It also includes a numbered list of topics above the fold (that is, in the top part of the screen that the site visitor sees before scrolling down) so that people can see right away what the guide covers.