May 03, 2007

Ever hear of Eyetrack III?

Have you ever heard of Eyetrack III? It's a study to see where people's eyes go when they read online. Now I'm not trying to downplay the significance of the study, the technology used in the study is amazing, the science behind it is fascinating, but honestly the conclusions are things that I and most other designers have always known. But still it is good to get a gut check on what we are doing, and I still suggest people read the study because it will make you think the next time you look at your ad, or webpage.

Here is how they explain process.

The precise definition, Eyetools, the company that conducted the Eyetrack III study: "Eyetracking is a monitoring technology that determines where a person is looking. Special cameras called 'eye trackers' can watch a person's eye and capture fixations and eye movements with a remarkable degree of accuracy (typically accurate to 1 cm on a standard computer screen) without requiring any special headgear."

This image shows the areas of the screen that peoples eyes spent the most time on, Priority 1 being the most, Priority 3 the least.

Here is who did it.

Eyetrack laboratory testing was performed by Eyetools Inc., a San Francisco, California-based software company that specializes in eyetracking analysis solutions for these types of user studies. The company was founded by Greg Edwards, who was the chief researcher at Stanford University during the Stanford-Poynter Eyetrack II study conducted in 1999-2000.

The section that interested me, because it is a large part of my job, is advertising. Here are some excerpts.

  • The first thing we noticed is that people often ignore ads, but that depends a lot on placement. When they do gaze at an ad, it's usually for only 0.5 to 1.5 seconds. Good placement and the right format can improve those figures.

  • We found that ads in the top and left portions of a homepage received the most eye fixations.

  • Close proximity to popular editorial content really helped ads get seen.

  • Text ads were viewed most intently, of all the types we tested.

  • Size matters. Bigger ads had a better chance of being seen.

Yes 1.5 seconds an ad, not much time to make a point. Left and top is better, this is not true for magazines, but it is for web pages. Text ads were viewed longer than graphic ads. Ever hear the saying a pictures worth a 1000 words? It's true, pictures can be taken in faster than words, so it's only natural people would look at words longer. Still, to a non-designer these things may not seem obvious, so keep them in mind the next time you are looking at your ad, or webpage.

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