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Lessons from Eye-Tracking Studies

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November 15th, 2007
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Golden Rules, LinkyLoo, Web Design

23 Actionable Lessons from Eye-Tracking Studies: A very nice summary of the eye tracking studies performed at Eyetrack III. The lessons are easy to follow and made a lot of sense to me. I have found most of them to be true in my experience but they can serve as a good guideline for new designs and for a remedial set of guidelines for existing designs.

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  1. Daniel (38 comments.) says:

    The Yale Style Guide and the Chicago Manual would be resources that I would highly recommend to any designer. The Yale guide, especially, for web site design.: [http://webstyleguide.com] The Yale guide takes into consideration eye-tracking, but it can be argued that some of their approach is irrelevent especially if the interface itself calls for vertical considerations (which many academics don’t seem to bother analyzing in a practical context — they appear to concentrate mainly on left-to-right, which although a factor becomes slightly more complicated if taking a more vertical approach in movement). Most academics as well refuse to discuss the approach of intuition-based organization and graphics. David Carson is an excellent designer to study in that regard — though, of course, his approach is not suited for all forms of communications. Intuition does play a huge role in design though, which is really his overall message.

  2. Bruce (4 comments.) says:

    I keep seeing eye-track studies and expert recommendations for left-column sidebars, but virtually nobody uses them anymore. Have we all become so accustomed to right sidebars that the left column advice is actually bad, or is that we just don’t pay attention to it although it is good advice?

  3. Daniel (38 comments.) says:

    Blog designs generally take on a more vertical dimension or movement in eye-tracking, Bruce. Right-aligned sidebars are actually an asset, as text becomes the main focus. (If you notice — which is more readable as a Blog-style layout? Reading from the top-line of the text/header and tracking down with the content, or being confronted by a left-aligned navigation column? Which method makes your content more readable or natural in eye-tracking movement? What is more comfortable for your readers? How will you design a grid-based layout vs. a column-based layout? Why?)

    That’s where the intuition aspects of design come into play, but with eye-tracking at the forefront of the science to your approach.

  4. Bruce (4 comments.) says:

    Thanks, Daniel. I knew there must be some reason why I personally like right sidebars the best (and why many others do as well).

  5. Dave Zan (1 comments.) says:

    Thanks, Daniel. I knew there must be some reason why I personally like right sidebars the best (and why many others do as well).

    One of the points in those articles mentioned about readers starting from the upper left. Maybe that’s why.

  6. Vincent Flanders (1 comments.) says:

    The research (Eyetrack III) was conducted in 2004. I’m sure some/most of the conclusions are valid in 2007, but I would prefer more current information. Three years is a long time on the web.

  7. Daniel (38 comments.) says:

    Vincent, Unfortunately, I’ve found that myself and others I’ve worked with (a couple would flat-out argue with me on this topic, because well — because they’re MBA graduates with little experience) take the style-guides with a grain of salt, because it always depends on application. There’s a variety of factors in design and layout that contribute to eye-tracking issues — and which the studies never use as controls in their analysis. One of the issues pertaining to lay-out is one factor, for instance. Certain colors on a page will also cause eye-tracking to differ — certain colors also influence eye-tracking based on perceptual prioritization of color, as well as psychological aspects associated with color (eyes will attract to certain greens before yellows, before reds, for example — a societal correlation to the colors we’re conditioned to view as conditional statements in our environment [aka: stoplights]). There’s so many factors related to eye-tracking, that you can’t really pin it all down with a one size fits all approach. This is why designers will never be obselete, and this is why I feel it’s extremely important that academics who push these studies out do a better job of trying to use a more intensive approach to reading analysis than they typically do. One the greatest caveats to a design academic doing an eye-tracking study, is that they’re usually not even consulting a reading specialist — or perhaps more importantly, a learning disabilities specialist, who is dedicated in understanding these characteristics. (Why does a dyslexic read from right to left more when the typeface is a sans-serif, as opposed to when a serif style face is employed? — But not that everyone should run out immediately and restyle their web sites just because it’s an observed issue from some experts in learning disabilities. — though I suppose a push to standardize text-switching would be a consideration to counter readability issues for those with certain reading issues.)



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