Scientific Web Design

If you have to design a web site from time to time, check out Scientific Web Design: 23 Actionable Lessons from Eye-Tracking Studies.

An eye tracker is a device for measuring eye positions and eye movements, often used in research for product design. A lot of studies have been done on web site design to determine the order a user looks at things on the page, how long they look at each thing, types of design that influence cognition, etc.

While you can read lots of these types of studies, scientific studies can be hard to sift through. The folks at VirtualHosting basically took a collection of these studies and distilled them into 23 rules for web design. Here are a few highlights:

  • Text attracts attention before graphics.
  • Users tend to scan web pages in the shape of an “F”. They look at the top left corner first, then across the top, then down the left side, then over a bit, and then down the left side some more.
  • Banners are ignored (unless you use AdBlock, in which case it should read “Banners?”).
  • Fancy formatting and fonts are ignored.
  • Show numbers as numerals, not words.
  • Type size influences viewing behavior.
  • One-column formats perform better in eye-fixation than multi-column formats.

And lots more. It’s definitely something to clip out and affix to your office wall. Perhaps I’m a usability dolt, but I found a lot of these items (particularly text over graphics) ran counter to what I usually do when designing a site. It’ll save me many hours in GIMP crafting the perfect image-blended flaming logo.