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How People View A Website

Studies carried out by eye-tracking and research, have discovered the science behind how people view a website.
They found ten useful findings and we’ve shared them with you, to help you optimise your site to fit the findings.

1. All eyes on the top left corner

When a user clicks on your site, the first area to get noticed and reviewed is the top left corner, and from then on, other areas of the website.
An eye-tracking study put together a table on what gets the most attention:

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If you check your website, will you see the most value proposition of your site in the top left corner?
If not, it may be time to rethink the layout of your page and make sure the content you want to be the most accessible is in the top left corner of the site.

The Gutenberg diagram highlights the general pattern the eyes follow when reading or looking at text-heavy content. It fits the zoning conclusion snugly, excluding the bottom right area:

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The fourth section should have your call to action in it. Keep in mind that this isn’t set in stone, but it’s a good starting point.

2. F-Patterns

Rather than reading, people will scan the content on a page.
A study carried out six years ago concluded that 28% of the text on a webpage is actually read, on average.

Eye-tracking visualisations show that users often read content in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes, followed by a vertical stripe:

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This is the perfect example of why to have your value proposition in the top sections and have a menu either running horizontally along the top or running down vertically on the left-hand side.

3. Visible Introductory Paragraphs

When writing an introductory paragraph, make the size of the font significantly larger than the other content or make it bold.
Within the test, subjects encountered a story that used a bold introductory paragraph, 95% of them viewed all of part of it.

For an example, every Smashing Magazine article begins with an intro paragraph:

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Keep the paragraph line lengths short and in a single column, as that is how people are used to reading a text.

The font style is not a huge matter, but people quite like links – the number of clicks on the link increase as you add more links.

4. First Priorities

Unfortunately, if you are not in the top Google searches, your site will be loosing out.
In an eye-tracking study, by Google, a majority of users found what they were looking for in the first two results listed and did not need to look any further down the page.

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As it is becoming increasingly harder to get into the top searches, using long tail keyword strategy is very important.

5. Scrolling

Web users know how to scroll and look below the fold, but not half the amount as they look above the fold.
Ensure that the above the folded part contains your value proposition. Do not try and squeeze all of your content in there.

Scrolling is still a better option than chopping lengthy content apart and dispersing it between pages, as it provides better usability.
Just remember that you guide users to scroll down.

Wiltshire Farm Foods give a small hint in the bottom right corner:

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Surprisingly, several studies have found that the very bottom of a page also gets quite a bit of attention – another good place for a call to action.

6. Left Side > Right Side

As expected, people read from left to right, hence why the left side of the page gets the most attention.

Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of a page and 30% of their time viewing the right half.

Amazon is a prime example of utilising the left side of the page, by putting their menu on the left-hand side:

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If you have a vertical menu, make sure you put it on the left.
Although navigation works best at the top of a page, as it was seen by the highest percentage of test subjects who spent the most time looking at.

7. Visual Content

Using high-quality pictures on your website to make it visually pleasing, draws a significant amount of attention to your page.

Having a picture of a person facing towards the camera is more inviting and approachable.

An example of a website that uses photos that fit these criteria is Highrise:

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Small, indistinguishable images are less inviting than that as pictured above, as are over-sized glamour shots.
Usability Guru, Jakob Nielsen, said the eye-tracking study also surfaced a counter-intuitive finding people who look like models are less likely to draw attention than regular people.

8. Amazing Apple

EyeTrackshop conducted a study that recorded consumers looking at a group of smartphones and tablets and discovered that Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPad 2 gained the longest time of attention compared with other Google Android devices from Amazon, HTC, Motorola and Samsung.

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A 2.3-second average was gained for the iPhone.

9. Dominant Headlines

Another eye-tracking study found that dominating headlines often draws the eye upon first clicking on the web page – especially if it is in the top left corner.

Try to present your entire value proposition within the headline, keeping in mind that clarity trumps persuasion.

Rekko greets its visitors with a domineering headline:

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Featuring a cluster of headlines on a page will not be as effective as you think. Most often it’s, again, the left sides of the headlines that gain most of the attention.
People will scan down the list rather than read the whole headline, picking out certain words. If those words are of interest, there is a higher chance they will read on.

10. First Impressions

When viewing a website, it takes users an average of two-tenths of a second to form a first impression of the site.
Research has found that subjects usually spend 2.6 seconds scanning through a website before focusing on a particular section.

The different sections of the website that drew the most interest from viewers were:

  • The institution’s logo. Users spent about 6.48 seconds focused on this area before moving on
  • The main navigation menu. Almost as popular as the logo, subjects spent an average of 6.44 seconds viewing the menu
  • The search box, where users focused for just over 6 seconds
  • Social networking links to sites such as Facebook and Twitter Users spent about 5.95 seconds viewing these areas
  • The site’s main image, where users’ eyes fixated for an average of 5.94 seconds
  • The site’s written content, where users spent about 5.59 seconds
  • The bottom of a website, where users spent about 5.25 seconds

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