How do users interact with the Web? This fundamental question has given rise to an entire field of study created to support the aims of Web site usability. Research organizations have been founded, studies commissioned, and test after test performed in an effort to determine exactly what visitors are looking for when they go to the Web for information–all in an effort to entice more users and keep them coming back for more. With the number of unique Web sites Sticky Site nearly doubling in the past year from 17 million in November 2000 to more than 32 million today, it’s more important than ever for your site to entice eyeballs to stick.
To better understand how consumer eyeballs behave on the Web, Ziff-Davis’ Smart Business Labs teamed up with usability specialists from eyetracking.com to figure out what makes a site more or less sticky–in other words, what makes visitors stay at a site for a longer period of time. The study recruited testers to surf through 20 sites, Sticky Site recording their eye movements every step of the way and keeping notes on how much time was spent on each site.
From the study came a list of six concepts to keep in mind where Web design is concerned:
- 1. Keep things simple: The tests revealed that users typically passed over important content when a page was weighed down with too much text and graphics. Also, easily recognized navigational tools such as tabs and hyperlinks were more effective than elaborate and detailed tools. Visitors tended not to stay long enough to figure out how to use those tools.
- 2. Make sure your search engine works: When looking for specific items, users preferred using a search tool over clicking through pages of product listings. This finding jives with a recent report from Jupiter that says “80% of online users will abandon a site if the search function doesn’t work well.”
- 3. Keep important information “center stage”: Overall, the testers spent about 20% of their time focusing on center screen. Treat this space as prime real-estate, the researchers say, placing the site’s most important features or products in this space.
- 4. Remember the text: While testers spent 19% of their time scanning graphic icons on a site, they neglected to click when the link lacked a descriptive label.
- 5. Get rid of lists: Users don’t like sifting through long lists to find a product. In fact, not a single user bothered to scroll down a page when they were engaged with a task.
- 6. Remember to include your logo: To the surprise of the researchers, testers spent as much as 25% of their time on a site viewing the logo, especially when placed in the upper-left corner.
Two quick color tips from your friendly imagesetter.
1) When you have a large area of black (not text or thin keylines), make a “Good Black” in your color list. Set the values to 40C 30M 30Y 100K.
2) Be careful when your Web guy gives you image files. Web folks work exclusively in RGB and at a lower resolution than is recommended for print. Make sure you look at the image. Make sure it’s CMYK. There is a different language on the Web, and it doesn’t always translate directly to print.