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Eye on how people look at sites

Eye tracking is the study of where our eyes move while we read, be it anewspaper, webpage or an ad. Eye tracking studies tell me that ifyou’re reading this item in the paper, only 40 per cent of you willread the whole column. If you are reading online only, 63 per cent willread the entire item.

Eye tracking is the study of where our eyes move while we read, be it a newspaper, webpage or an ad. Eye tracking studies tell me that if you’re reading this item in the paper, only 40 per cent of you will read the whole column. If you are reading online only, 63 per cent will read the entire item.

Eye tracking has become a new kind of science and new technology means we can more effectively follow the eye. Perhaps the number one area of study these days is how people look at a website.

Google’s official blog noted last month that most of us read what’s at the top left of a webpage, and as you move down the page or to the right, we read far less. It can be a search page or a corporate web page or a charity web site, but the same pattern happens.

Eye tracking studies blossomed in the 1970s and reveal that as our attention wanders, our eyes will follow. Eye tracking tells you what gets people’s attention. Here are a few key points about web page reading:

  • We ignore most of the ads or what we think might be an ad unless it is of specific interest to us. Often, we miss key information because we think it looks like an ad.
  • A site designed for the eye can sharply increase traffic and click-throughs.
  • Crisp photos, especially of faces, attract us; cluttered or unrelated images repel us.
  • We scan a page and make our decisions at a blazingly fast rate.
  • Fancy words and phrases are a turnoff, plain language works best.
Eye tracking technology is getting less obtrusive and cheaper and is being used for things like monitoring the eyes of long-distance truckers. If their eyelids remain closed too long then an alarm rings to wake slumbering driver. At Carleton University’s Human Oriented Technology Lab, they use eye tracking to find out where pilots are looking while flying a virtual plane. Pilots think they are monitoring dashboard displays and the sky, when in fact eye tracking says they are often focused on the sky while they think they looked at the dash.

To the 40 to 63 per cent of you who read the entire column, thank you!

Website of the week: www.eyetracking.com and www.useit.com provide more insight into eye tracking.

This Sunday, one of the stories on TECH NOW will be a look at how GPS can track a lot more than just your location. Don’t forget to visit our website ctvottawa.ca.

Be sure to watch Tech Now this Sunday as part of the CTV NEWS at 6 p.m.;
technow@ctv.ca.

 
 
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