Google recently conducted eye tracking and usability test, and found some interesting results.
Some of the things to note in the research are:-
1. Most users scan only the first 2 results and their focus fades while going through the rest of the results.
2. Google Experience Research team has also found that people evaluate the search results page so quickly that they make most of their decisions unconsciously.
3. People tend to scan the search results in order. They start from the first result and continue down the list until they find a result they consider helpful and click it. You can see in the below image[Heat map] that the users attention moves in “F” shape.
Above heat map like image is called as Golden Triangle by Google. The bigger the dot, longer the person spent time looking at a particular part of the page.
4. The team wanted to incorporate thumbnail images to better represent certain kinds of results. But they had a concern that showing thumbnails of images and videos would effect the higher order results. But the studies showed that the thumbnails did not strongly affect the order of scanning the results and seemed to make it easier for the participants to find the result they wanted. Interestingly enough the thumbnails also seemed to make it easy for people to skip over the results with thumbnails when those results were not relevant to their search.
Here is what Google say about the eye tracking and mind reading:-
To help us get some insight into this split-second decision-making process, we use eye-tracking equipment in our usability labs. This lets us see how our study participants scan the search results page, and is the next best thing to actually being able to read their minds. Of course, eye-tracking does not really tell us what they are thinking, but it gives us a good idea of which parts of the page they are thinking about.
Here is a video clip shows in real time how a participant involved in the study scanned the page. That’s how fast the eyes move when scanning a page
Google also use this eye tracking and usability test on Google News and Image Search. And Google also uses interviews, field studies and live experiments, to compliment and to support its eye tracking and usability test results.
These results can be made use of properly by web publishers for the placement of ads and banners. But interestingly enough, Google did not mentioned about the usability of their CPC ads on the SERP(Search Engine Result Page), in their eye tracking tests. But we know that, Google runs a serious of tests before making any changes for their ad placement and the background of those ads etc. So its always ideal that we run similar tests on our blog and know which part of our blog receives more visibility or user attention. By knowing these things we can easily get the attention of more audience.