Recently Ron pointed my attention to Scientific Web Design: 23 Actionable Lessons From Eye-Tracking Studies. Interestingly, someone from virtual hosting emailed us about the study as well.
I found 6, 10, 19, 20 of particular interest, especially for sites that are already built. These items are largely related to content strategy.
6.Show numbers as numerals. Readers will find it much easier to find factual information on your site if you use numerals instead of writing out numbers. Remember, you’re writing for readers that are going to be primarily scanning your site, so make it easier for them to find what they need and keep them interested.
10.Shorter paragraphs perform better than long ones. Information on your page should be designed for the short attention span of most Internet users. Keep paragraphs and sentences short unless context mandates otherwise, such as descriptions of products on an e-commerce sites
19.Lists hold reader attention longer. One way you can break up the paragraphs in your content and keep users looking through your site is to make frequent use of a list format for your articles. Use numbers or bullet points to highlight important information within your content. It will make your site more scannable and easier for users to find the information that they’re looking for.
20.Large blocks of text are avoided. Studies have shown that that your average Web visitor isn’t going to take the time to study large blocks of text no matter how informative or well-written they might be. Because of this, you need to break up these larger blocks of text into smaller paragraphs. Highlighting specific areas and pulling out bullet points can also help to keep user attention.
Items 12 and 14 have to do with advertising. For me, 14 was surprising, I’ve always assumed that graphical adds would draw attention, as they do in print advertising. And it seems on the web, graphic advertising signals to the user that it is advertising and they pass over it, but text draws users in and engages them in a different way.
12.Ads in the top and left portions of a page will receive the most eye fixation. If you’re going to place ads on your site, try integrating them into the top left portion of your page, as those will get the most visual attention. Of course, just because readers see them there doesn’t mean they’ll click on them, so don’t sacrifice design just to gain some extra visibility.
14.Text ads were viewed mostly intently of all types tested. Like we said earlier, the average Internet user generally doesn’t waste much time looking at things that immediately appear to be ads. That’s why text ads perform so much better. They aren’t distracting and blend in with the rest of the content on the page, making them less visually irritating to the reader and ultimately more successful.