Eye Tracking and Web Design
The state-of-the-art for website design continues to evolve as does the sophistication and experience of the website visitor. This discriminating surfer has pushed the web designer to reconsider what really works for the visitor instead of what looks cool. This new website design criteria is based on eye tracking research.
Eye tracking is a term used to describe how the eye moves along a web page. This eye movement is part cultural, part physiological and part learned. For example, Westerners will normally read a web page from the top left and then follow a downward sloping "s-curve" to the right. The curve will then move back to the left bottom and so on. This is why Google AdWords and Yahoo! Pay-Per-Click ads are on the right.
Recent studies now offer other conclusions. For example, text may draw attention before graphics or other images. We are taught at an early age that words are powerful and to be reckoned with. Stops signs say "STOP" and we hit the brakes, yet a stop sign without the words will only confuse us.
Our eyes easily capacity of ornate or decorative fonts. Welcome and easy to read fonts include Arial or Times Roman or Sans Serif. Bold face and capital letters catch our attention but they lose impact if we use it too much. Bold face and capital letters scream for attention and should be used sparingly.
Our eyes prefer shorter sentences and shorter sentences. Also, people tend to read the lead sentence in a paragraph and then scan the rest of the page. This may account for the popularity of Hemingway or People Magazine, but I digress.
White space is good. Just look at the Google website and you will see what I mean. We also like simple formats such as a one column page layout; This is easier to read than a multi-column format. White space has a calming effect on the reader and helps them focus on what is important.
Website buttons and tabs work. They help us navigate around the site and we are matched by them. Left and top navigation both work, but the top is preferred. Having a simple dashboard is essential for website usability. Busy websites create stress for the visitor and can send them away.
Design your website for ease of use – looking cool or stylish may be hard on the eyes.
John Bradley Jackson
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