New Eye Tracking Study: List Layouts

The Catalyst Group provides a wide range of services that make your website or application as simple and useful as possible so that it performs measurably better.

They recently published the results of a new eye Tracking study of “friends” list layouts on Facebook and Linkedin. I thought the results were interesting as we often have to present information to clients and prospects and it turns out the layout makes a difference.

Facebook uses a one column layout and Linkedin uses a 3 column layout like these:

1 Column Facebook
1 Column Facebook
3 Column Linkedin
3 Column Linkedin

Overall, the 1-Column layout was a much more effective and enjoyable way of presenting the tested information. The single column of names was easy to read straight down during the Name Recognition Task, and users were able to “ignore” the adjacent column which contained information that wasn’t relevant to the current task.

Eye Tracking data revealed that virtually all participants scanned the 1-Column layout the same way and there was very little hesitation or exploration at the start of the task – users were able to dive right into scanning without having to experiment with different scanning strategies (a phenomenon which was observed with the 3-Column layout).

The 3-Column layout was thought by most participants to be more cumbersome

1 Column Facebook Initial Few Seconds
1 Column Facebook Initial Few Seconds

and overwhelming in its design – more “tiring” according to one participant. (See image below) Also, participants felt much less confident that they had successfully completed the tasks with the 3-Column layout. In other words, they did not feel sure that they had seen all the names.

The Eye Tracking of the 3-Column layout revealed that the participants did not adopt a consistent scanning strategy for this design. Moreover, most participants had to begin by experimenting with different scanning strategies before “deciding” which one to use. This uncertainty was exacerbated by the need to

3 Column Linkedin Initial Few Sections
3 Column Linkedin Initial Few Sections

scroll the page in order to see the full 3-column list. Many participants found that they had lost their place on the page after scrolling and had to backtrack up the page.

Eye Tracking is a service that literally tells you where website users are looking on a screen as they attempt to complete a specific task or simply explore freely. This information can help you make informed decisions about a variety of key design elements, such as task workflow, site navigation, and advertising placement and formats. Eye Tracking can help by supplementing what users “say” with what their eyes “see.”

The most popular output from the Eye Tracking system is “Heatmaps” that graphically illustrate the intensity of attention that certain areas of a page received.

Sample Heatmap
Sample Heatmap

“Gaze-plots” are another useful graphic report that indicates where users fixated on the page, for how long, and in what order.

For more information you should visit the Catalyst Group website.

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