Saturday, February 7, 2009

Google eye-tracking studies drive website changes

Website designers have used eye-tracking equipment for years to learn how visitors interact with their sites. Companies like Eyetools perform studies for clients including Yahoo and the New York Times. But the results of these studies are usually kept confidential.

Today, a pair of Google employees posted a video to Google's company blog that shows an eye-tracking study done on Google's search results page. The study's goal was to determine if adding thumbnail images to the search results page distracted users, or helped them.

The study found Google's thumbnails didn't confuse users. Great, but a more interesting blog post would've been an example of how eye-tracking data caused Google's interface designers to make a major change, rather than validating their genius.

Still, the video is worth watching. As you follow the red dot bouncing around Google pages, remember that a larger red dot means the user's eyes paused there longer. The video is in real time, which surprises some viewers. We humans can scan a page full of information much faster than you might think.


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