The Best of Eyetrack III:
What We Saw When We Looked Through Their Eyes
By Steve Outing and Laura Ruel
Eyetrack III project managers
News websites have been with us for about a decade, and editors and designers still struggle with many unanswered questions: Is homepage layout effective? … What effect do blurbs on the homepage have compared to headlines? … When is multimedia appropriate? … Are ads placed where they will be seen by the audience?
The Eyetrack III research released by The Poynter Institute, the Estlow Center for Journalism & New Media, and Eyetools could help answer those questions and more. Eyetracking research like this won’t provide THE answer to those questions. But combined with other site metrics already used by news website managers — usability testing, focus groups, log analysis — the Eyetrack III findings could provide some direction for improving news websites.
In Eyetrack III, we observed 46 people for one hour as their eyes followed mock news websites and real multimedia content. In this article we’ll provide an overview of what we observed. You can dive into detailed Eyetrack III findings and observations on this website — use the navigation at the top and left of this page — at any time. If you don’t know what eyetracking is, get oriented by reading the Eyetrack III FAQ.
Let’s get to the key results of the study, but first, a quick comment on what this study is and is not: It is a preliminary study of several dozen people conducted in San Francisco. It is not an exhaustive exploration that we can extrapolate to the larger population. It is a mix of “findings” based on controlled variables, and “observations” where testing was not as tightly controlled. The researchers went “wide,” not “deep” — covering a lot of ground in terms of website design and multimedia factors. We hope that Eyetrack III is not seen as an end in itself, but rather as the beginning of a wave of eyetracking research that will benefit the news industry. OK, let’s begin. …