Help designers understand how people’s brains actually consume web pages
Eye tracking applied to website viewing has shown that gaze patterns are determined by two types of attention:
- Bottom-up attention: This type of attention is involuntary and automatic. When viewing websites, bottom-up attention is attracted to certain types of features, such as brightness relative to background, distinct borders, the center of the viewing area, and tight groupings of objects on the page. These reactions are automatically produced by the brain’s visual processing system and can be predicted at an 80 percent accuracy rate by software.
- Top-down attention: This type of attention is driven by the viewer’s goals and expectations. Following the first few moments of scanning, which are controlled by the automatic attention system, goals take over to determine where the viewer will look next and for how long.
This dependence on goals means that web pages should not be thought of as having some objective level of “effectiveness.” Web page and website effectiveness can only be determined relative to the goals and expectations that viewers bring to the page.
Provide clues regarding the major sources of website frustration
Studies have shown that website frustration usually occurs when the viewer’s goals and expectations are impeded by the web page’s organization, task flow design, or goal-irrelevant clutter (usually advertising) around the page. These disruptions of goal pursuit can occur at the nonconscious level, and they can significantly impact the viewer’s attitudes and behavior, often without the viewer being aware of the real sources of his or her responses.
Help designers understand how nonconscious processing impacts online experiences
Although tasks and goals on websites are predominantly conscious in origin and pursuit, nonconscious processes continue to play an important role in website viewing. Website designers and online advertisers need to understand how low-attention processing, priming, and implicit memory all operate alongside conscious processes in order to design online experiences that maximize online effectiveness and web experience satisfaction.