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Eye tracking shows how people read web pages

John Murray

Quality web content is a key element for a business web site. Another essential aspect is the page layout and design. It is important to know how visitors look at web pages. The best method to discover this is eye tracking, a process involving sensors attached to the top of the computer monitor that detects where people are looking at.


When a new web page loads, the first thing that many people notice are the images. There are two general types of images, pure decorative ones, and ones that are judged by the viewer to contain important content. Eye tracking research reveals that often people just glance at decorative images, but spend more time scrutinising content images.

On an e-commerce site the important content images are photos of products. On business websites people take notice of pictures of the company executives as they mean that the company is not a faceless organisation, but run by real human beings.

How people read web pages

Eye tracking research has shown that a web page is read word for word by only around sixteen per percent of the readers. What the rest do is quickly scan a page to find what interests them.

The implication of this is that your web content needs to direct readers to important sections. This is done in several ways including, headings, highlighted words and bullet lists.

Headings and sub-headings should be meaningful so that the reader quickly knows what text below the heading is about.

Bullet lists draw attention to the key points of an article.

Highlighted keywords in different colours or containing visual links are also effective in capturing reader’s attention.

When creating a web site, it is important to have an insight into how people read web pages.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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