Not everyone can afford an eye tracking test for their website, but most developers, designers and small business owners can benefit from the general knowledge that user behavior tests provide. While the conclusions drawn from user behavior tests may not necessarily be accurate all the time, the data itself can offer quite a bit of insight.
Though above-the-fold content may get more activity, conversion generally occurs at the bottom of the page. It’s easy to understand why. If you see a conversion prompt at the top of the page, you aren’t yet invested. By the time you read the article and wish to convert, the conversion prompt is no longer on the screen. Conversely, if the conversion prompt is at the bottom, it is immediately accessible at the exact time that you need it.
What’s more, “above the fold” content might not mean as much as it once did. For one, “above the fold” now has an entirely different meaning. Mobile users account for a large portion of web activity, and they are used to scrolling downwards for information.
Moral: Always think about how the user will actually use the site and the physical process of conversion.
Observe this EyeQuant study. In this area, EyeQuant noticed that large text didn’t attract additional attention as predicted. But there’s also something more interesting going on here. You can see that EyeQuant predicted that users would linger for a somewhat similar amount of time on each of the three informational boxes presented, reading left to right. In fact, users read the first box, concentrated on the second box and then skipped the third box entirely.
Assumptions are dangerous. But if one wanted to make assumptions, it could be assumed that the user reads the first box and then scans the second box to determine whether each box is actually useful to them. At this point, the user makes an educated decision to skip over the third box entirely, imagining that it does not offer any additional value.
This is seen again, where, when confronted by four similar elements, the users pay significant attention to the first two items of the block and then abruptly drop off in interest.
Moral: Vary your elements and never put important information in a similar array.
A lot has been said about the “F” shape in reading; users scan the top first and then scan down the left hand side, looking for interesting headlines. But there’s no mystery here: we simply read left to right. Overall, the left hand of the screen accounts for about 70% of the reader’s time.
But studies have also shown that readers can be triggered to move to the left hand screen with a prompt. An image of a person looking towards the right, for instance, can move the viewer’s focus to right side content. So if you do want to vary your content approach, you simply need to be careful with your layout design.
Moral: Either put your most important content on the left side or trigger it from the left with a prompt that points to it.
Nearly every eye-tracking study since 2007 has noted that users experience ‘banner blindness’–they simply do not see most ads. There are some exceptions. Ads that are unfamiliar to them or ads that do not look like traditional ads may actually be viewed. An ad that appears to be content could also be lingered on.
But, of course, this is a double-edged sword; any time spent looking at an ad is time that is not spent engaging with the content of the site. Banner ads have become a poor monetization technique for a variety of reasons, banner blindness being only one of them.
Moral: If you have to user banner ads, expect them to be largely ignored. You can encourage users to look at them, but only at the cost of your content.
Of course, as we’ve noted, statistics and studies won’t always present an accurate picture. While you can’t always rely upon external information, what you can do is conduct your own testing. Based on the above principles, you can initiate changes to your website and determine whether they improve your performance. Statistics, in general, should be used as guidelines to make changes rather than taken as hard facts.