Eyeing the Top Spot

Eye tracking is totally fascinating to me, from the how-to to the findings. I was surprised to find out that eye tracking in one form or another has been around for more than 100 years.

One of our articles Eye-Tracking Technology: An Introduction was a nice primer for the “how-to”s, and a great teaser for the possible future applications for eye-tracking technology and data. However, two other readings had me captivated. As a former newspaper journalist, I was interested, but not so surprised, by the findings in “Eyetracking the News: A Study of Print and Online Reading”. The entry points for reading print news are headlines and photos, while the entry points online are navigation. Visuals and color increased viewing of elements like briefs and teasers, all not so aha findings, but findings that had me once again relating them to my teaching experiences. Up until a couple of years ago, high school students took two versions of the FCAT — the Sunshine State Standards (SSS) version and the Norm-Referenced Test (NRT) version. The SSS version, because it was funded and implemented at the state level, was always delivered in large chunks of text and murky graphics in black and white. The NRT version always included color and detailed and fun graphics because it was funded and implemented nationally. Students, without exception in the ones I’ve dealt with, overwhelmingly prefer the NRT, and specifically pointed to the colorful and interesting presentation. In fact, some used to beg to take that test and not the other.

The white paper by Mediative, Eye Tracking and Click Mapping Google Places, made a great case for making a significant investment in getting to the top of a Google Places search, and applied findings related to the Golden Triangle from similar Google search studies. The top three or four places received the most gazes and clicks, and subjects were also attracted to the images and social signals added to the top listings. I particularly liked the fictitious scenario with which subjects were presented: road trip that included a number of stops along the way to hunt for tattoo parlors. (In fact, I kept trying to add my own story to go with it. Was this a drunken road trip specifically for tattoos?  Was there a dare or lost bet involved? The eye gazes at the first tattoo parlor location in London, Ontario, were followed by a significant number of gazes at Chaucer’s Pub, which supports this theory of mine, but I wanted to know more.)

Questions for this week: Given the findings of this white paper, how much should organizations depend on eye-tracking studies to guide their presentation of information? And on more of a personal note, if you were looking for a tattoo parlor in a strange city, would you stop looking beyond the first three or four listed on your search? (I’m an information junkie and would probably see all the options available to me before making a choice. Am I the only one?)

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6 thoughts on “Eyeing the Top Spot

  1. I personally wouldn’t be one to get a tattoo in a weird city. But I think that eyetracking is one of those things you need to do to justify what you currently do. For instance, the Google results, had they been displayed on the other side of the page, would probably still be just as hot for the eye tracking. Just as the facebook notifications bar is. People get familiar with where they need to look.

    Taking advantage of that…designing a page that has those familiar elements would greatly benefit.

    • Like Chris, I don’t think I would be getting a tattoo in an unfamiliar city either. If I were, I would definitely read past the first three posts. I tend to do that anyway when using google places. I sometimes look through pages and pages of posts. So, I’m with you!

      In response to your first question, like anything, I think eyetracking can be taken with a grain of salt. You definitely want to pay attention to it, especially for high priority items, but not every user is the same. You can’t base your entire design off of it.

  2. In response to your second question, I actually scroll through most Google search results. I don’t know if it’s out of habit or because of curiosity. I also have a journalism background like you Shannan–so it may just be second nature for me to go through all my findings before making a decision on something.

  3. I think it is beneficial for advertisement agencies and companies to look at how consumers see their ads and in what way or method. What they see at a glance or notice most on an ad may make or break how the product sells. I know in our fast-pace lifestyles that we don’t stand in the middle of the street and stare at an ad for very long unless it really grabs our attention, same with a website. As far as a tattoo parlor, I don’t think I would trust just going through 3 or 4 listings. If its something that important like ink that will stay on me forever and I could potentially get hurt at some strange place, I would look more in depth and go through a lot more listings and reviews before making a choice.

  4. I think the tattoo-in-a-strange city thing is kind of a poor example of the effectiveness of something like Google Places, mostly because, if I were looking for a tattoo parlor in a strange city, I’d probably look through the results for locations with good reviews, and then do Google searches on those particular locations to find one I could trust. I still wouldn’t get a tattoo there without seeing it/meeting the artist myself, but… It’s one of those examples, basically, where there’s too much at stake to rely solely on location search results. Now, if I were using Google Places to find, say, an Italian restaurant or a book store or something, I might settle for a top search result. Those are examples where I could see this study being more appropriate.

  5. Unlike most people, I think if I WERE to get a tattoo it would probably be because I was out in a strange city. If I were looking a place up on my phone, I’d probably scroll through- paying attention to all of the listings and reviews. I do see what you mean though in that if there were a Top 4 on a list I’d probably assume those were the most popular tattoo parlors and spend time on those first. Also, if you’re getting a tattoo in a strange city, you would probably be making the decision quickly, defending the Top 4 theory.

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