A Look Into The Science of Web Design
- Jake Downs
- July 6, 2012
When working on a new site, one mistake that often occurs is focusing too much on the art of the web design and not enough on the science. Aesthetics aside, everything from layout to font choice should be guided by user testing to ensure that the website is not only pretty but also functioning at its best. Here are some surprising findings that you should keep in mind when designing your next website.
Eye-tracking studies can reveal where your visitors are focusing – and what they’re missing.
Want to know if your visitors are focusing where you want them to? Eye-tracking technology will actually follow their eye movements as they view the page, providing a gaze map which tells you where they look and where they stop to read. Data from multiple users is then combined to give you an overall picture of where they are focused the most. Typically, you’ll see that people start by scanning the main sections to see what the site is about, and they pay the most attention to the top most section of the site, particularly the upper left corner. However, each layout will give you different results, so it’s worth running a test. If you have many photos, lots of text, or a multiple column layout, you may find that your readers react very differently to your content.
Red is better than green for call-to-action buttons.
Okay, this may not be the case across the board, but that’s what one study from the website CareLogger found through A/B testing. The simple change increased their sign-ups by 34%. It may have to do with contrast. Green may match better with the rest of your site, but that can actually be a detriment. It may blend in a little too well. Choosing a color that sticks out from the rest of the design can draw your user’s attention to it.
Photos of human beings perform better than graphics.
Two separate A/B studies found that images of people can make a big difference for your conversion rates over other types of graphics. The site Medalia art found that when they swapped pictures of the paintings they were selling for photos of the artists, visitor engagement improved by 90%. The website EmptyMind replaced a large phone icon for the contact us page with a photo of the site owner, and conversion rates jumped 48%. Why? It may have to do with people emotionally connecting with the image of another human being.
You have three seconds to get your visitors’ attention.
Studies have found that, on average, people make decisions about the page they visit in three seconds – or less! That means you only have this short window to convince them to stay on your site or to take the action you want them to (like heading to the shopping cart or signing up for your newsletter). When designing, take a step back and look at what information you can glean from the site in that short period of time. Is it clear what the site is all about? Are you drawing attention to the right things?
Jake Downs spends most of his time reviewing digital printing technology and researching the best web design and SEO practices. When he’s not doing any of that, he’s usually golfing.
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