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Websites that have strongly invested in building traffic should be able to capture and focus people’s attention once they arrive.

However, eye-tracking analysis shows that this is not always the case.

Time is beyond-precious online. Switching between pages is so easy that landing pages have to ensure visitors find something to hang on to instantly upon arrival.

Do people actually get the message your website is trying to convey? Or are they left confused, without a clear sense of direction about the purpose of the page?

The most obvious way to find out is to go and ask people; interview them either online or offline. The problem here is that what people say and what they actually think and do are often not the same.

Web analytics provides stats like bounce rates and time-on-page, but they provide little insight about the reasons for those outcomes and how to improve the bottom line results.

Eye-tracking is useful for evaluating designs because it goes beyond clicks and reveals customer interaction on a deeper level.

The eye works by little stops called fixations – where and for how long those fixations occur paints an objective picture of whether your design works as it should to support your business goals.

This YouTube video (click here) shows a person buying a video game on the Zavvi web page. The red dots appearing on screen display eye fixations – the bigger they grow the more focused a person was in looking at that particular element. Overall you can see the fixations move across the page really quickly and none of them grows very big.

Now compare it to another user (click here) trying to perform the same task on the Game.co.uk. The red dots appear in a much orderly way. On average each single fixation is longer, indicating more focused interaction with the page. This person is actually getting much more information from this page than in the previous case of scanning quickly all over the screen.

Those individual recordings are good only for making examples – to draw reliable conclusions data is needed over 50 similar sessions.

The charts below show aggregated results for 53 people, ‘eye-tested’ by Realeyes when asked to buy a video game they liked. Results mirror the video examples above: average eye stop length on the Game page was 475 milliseconds, while on the Zavvi page it was only 298 milliseconds.

The longer fixations on the Game page show that people’s engagement with the page was much stronger than with the Zavvi page. Conclusion: Game gave its visitors something to hang on to and Zavvi did not.

Much can be learned by drilling further into detail to see where people focused most and what part of the page were just scanned over. Again, Game seems to perform well as the main menu and top sellers areas are the ones with strongest focus.

Zavvi should be unhappy to find itself in the opposite picture: top menu and top promotions receive fixations shorter than 200 ms. Researchers generally agree that a fixation should be above 220 ms for the brain to process enough information to record a memory. Two important elements of Zavvi page seem to be lost for users. Not ideal.

Beside the level of focus there are often other performance indicators that any given design should follow. In a transactional ecommerce site complementary KPI-s could include the ones given in the table below.

The results above confirm our general experience that a more focused attention on a page is good for the overall performance of the design. Confusing people will cost real money and eye-tracking can help to avoid that.

Looking forward to answer any questions either here in the comments thread or via mihkel@realeyes.it. 

Mihkel Jäätma

Published 27 October, 2008 by Mihkel Jäätma

6 more posts from this author

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