Eyetracking web usability (English)

 

Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice

New Riders, 2010

424 Pages

 

Pernice and Nielsen have written this book after a deep and extensive research on eyetracking. They gauge how users look at computer screens.

This book contradicts many designers theories about how to design a web page. Authors don´t mention current common accepted design rules and main theories bout the way people read in computer screens. Nielsen’s and Pernice conclusions are a breakthrough in this field. According to authors they have conducted the widest eyetracking research up to date. They have reach new conclusions against what Poynter Institute has previously assured in their eyetracking studies. Poynter Institute is an journalism organization that have performed the best known eyectracking studies to date. Poynter has focused mainly in newspaper websites. The main difference with Nielsen and Pernice study is that the latest measure users performing tasks. They don´t just reflect newspaper readers but active users in order to get a result in his/her navigation. For instance, they are trying to buy a flight ticket or write a message to the editor of a website.

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Is difficult to judge this book. Authors don´t mention previous studies or conclusions. It seems that they are the pioneers or that they are writing without competitors.

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Main conclusions

 

  1. Users eyeballs don´t enter a web page in a regular or predefined way. There are not two matching users. That’s totally against the Z theory. Readers look at the top left of a page at first sight and then follow a Z until the bottom right extreme of the page. That means that there’s not any magic formula for building web pages.

 

Nielsen and Pernice state further. Users don´t look at the top left at first glace, but they can look at every point in a given page. Users look to one place or another depending of what they expect from the site they’re visiting. Authors concede that readers look for the more important information at the top of the page.

 

  1. Users don´t waste time with images. Again. Readers don´t look at pictures or drawings. They only look illustrations when those illustration are related to the information they´re looking for. Furthermore, in an electronic shop, users only look at images when they´re about the very product they are wanting to buy.(pag. 292) not the previous catalogues.

 

  1. Users don´t look at advertisement banners. They ignore them completely. Some big videos captures users attention. Banner blindness theory was first introduced by Nielsen back in 1997. In February, 2010 there are more than 324 academic articles about banner blindness. There’s an article about it in the Wikipedia. In this book, they insist in the theory. Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice detail what are most ignored banners. They assure as well that page elements resembling banners should be ignored as well. Graphic advertisement is totally ignored. If you’re promoting something, it´s worth to make it different from a banner.

 

  1. Eyectracking web usability denies another design principle: red colour attracts eyeballs. Red, according to Nielsen make people glance to another piece of the page (Pag 93). Orange has the same disturbing effect (Pag 101)

 

  1. Internet users do look to sponsored links in search engines result pages. Google has said something similar. Clickthrought ratio fell last year (2009) in Google. In page 342, Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice state that users have got a positive experience about sponsored links usefulness.(Pag 342)

 

  1. At first glance, readers check if the page has worked properly. In other words, they automatically look if the previous link was correct.

Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice call this glance, residual glance.

 

  1. Web users don´t look at navigation bars neither breadcrumbs. This was a proven theory. For Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice this is because readers are looking at the important content of the page. In my opinion, this conclusion could be too extreme. Authors are not studying the real web situation in which 80% of the times users come to a page after a web search engine query. In this book, they study websites as if they were completely navigated from the home page and not another single page.

 

  1. Headlines, slurbs and bold text can help to make a page more legible but that´s not necessary.

 

  1. Icons (telephones, computers, people…) seldom catch user attention

 

I haven´t read any previous book by Kara Pernice. I have spend many time with Jakob Nielsen. He always displays information in a very unclear stuffy way. It´s difficult to know how is the path of the users glance in Eyetracking web usability pictures. Nielsen told me that this is because

this path and order is not meaningful. For him, it´s more important to know that there are no predetermined ways. Authors use different ways and colour combinations to show this path. But it´s impossible to know.

 

Nielsen says you can download the book online in a website. This is not true. You can only download a chapter.

 

Main chapters.

 

Further information in

·Eyectracking Methodology: How to conduct and Evaluate Usability Studies Using Eyectracking http://www.useit.com/eyetracking/methodology/