Eyetracking Studies and Page Design

When consulting on site layouts and page layouts there is often a balancing act with regard to what a site owner wants to see and what will give the opportunity for the highest level of success. Users of the web have become conditioned on where to focus and what to expect. If you don’t deliver what they expect within a short period of time, your user will become detached and bounce.

There are many site owners/designers who will use a beautiful looking layout from one of the many template sites (boxedart.com, templatemonster.com, etc.). Though many of these designs are beautiful, many are designed to be visually appealing and don’t take usability into account. There are many template designs with tall header graphics that don’t allow much more than a couple of inches at the bottom of the screen for your valuable content and or navigation.
Page layout

There are also factors to consider such as ad blindness. If you design your page in a way that your call to action(s) resemble advertising, your message will be lost. Combine that with a huge header garphic and your visitor is gone before considering your message, service, or product.

The Gateway website (below) is a great example of ad blindness. Take a look at the hot spots in this heat map (the hot spots are the focus points of the users’ eyes). The red arrow demonstrates the lack of focus that was paid toward the ‘featured item’. The designer may have felt that this would become a focus, however, the exact opposite took place. Ad blindness kept this feature from gaining any attention.
Gateway eyetrack view

When designing a site/page, be sure to take usability into account. Don’t let your featured items be misconstrued as advertising and subject to blindness. Consider writing styles that will provide users with snippets of information. There is a particular method for writing on the web. Short paragraphs, bulleted lists, interjected images, etc. You need to provide your message to your user in short order or your user will be gone. All of the marketing efforts to deliver that visitor are lost if your page cannot convert.

Ajax Examples Anyone?

If you have wanted to go a little further on your site and haven’t yet integrated any “Web 2.0” functions (I know, cliche’) take a look at this.


The mini ajax site offers some great code samples and examples. There are some techniquest that can be integrated by anyone who has a little bit of code knowledge. So, if you have wanted to play around with Ajax, or Prototype or Script.aculo.us, take a look.

When integrating these ‘cool’ functions, ask yourself if they are really necessary, or if they make the user experience better. Consider whether you are doing it to just ‘do it’ or if they really serve a purpose for your site visitors. There are always trade offs. BTW: According to someone who Brett Tabke knows within a major ISP, this whole Web 2.0 thing is for the female demographic. I feel that is is more site specific than that, but if your site caters to the female demo, perhaps you should consider working with some of these scripts to see how your users react.

Good luck and have fun!

Free Website Template Search Engine

There was a site that came up today at Del.ico.us and Digg. It was a collection of 40+ sites offering free web site templates or skins. If you are like me (a bit right brain challenged) you will appreciate this nice list of sites. There is even a nice section including wordpress themes.

I could just reprint here, but I decided to do something a little different. I have wanted to try something out in Google Co-op for a while and this was the perfect candidate. Google Co-op allows you to create a custom search engine and even use it on your site. I am not going to integrate it into the site, but this will allow you to search the complete list of free template web sites using Google.

Search this custom engine for a free web site template:

I plan on using this myself since I often find myself looking for a template in a particular niche (real estate, furniture). Going through all of these sites would be a bit tedious and this custom search engine using Google Co-op is the right answer. Not perfect, but nice. I haven’t looked into it, but an image search using co-op would probably be more suitable.

BTW does anyone else find it funny when a “design company” uses one of these canned templates to pitch their “design” services. In any event, I hope this is usefull for someone. I know that I will use it to find web site templates that will help generate some new ideas.

Read more to get the full list of free template sites. Continue reading Free Website Template Search Engine

Logo Design for the Design Challenged

As a webmaster I find myself in search of a logo for many new projects (obviously not this site). I consider myself a technical person who doesn’t have a great sense of design. I can look at a logo, or a site, and I generally know when something doesn’t look right, or doesn’t look as professional as it should. A designer, on the other hand, can look at that same logo or site and start off with comments regarding the amount of white space here, the gradient there, etc.

If you are like me, you should like this site. I have no affiliation whatsoever, I just think that they provide a terrific service at a very reasonable price ($125-$150). The site is www.designoutpost.com. The design process happens in a forum after you post your project. It is very different than the traditional design process where you are working one on one with a graphic designer. There are a group of designers who are trying to earn the project. Again, unlike other design services, the project isn’t earned until the work is virtually complete.

Read through some of the threads and you will see that the designers take in the feedback and usually come back with sommething good. Since there is more than one designer, you will see a slightly different take on the feedback which results in a better design. I have even seen projects where the client asks everyone to start fresh after a week of revisions. Not bad for <$200.

I have used eLance.com and a couple of independent designers in the past but in those cases it is someone like me, looking at proofs and trying to tell the designer what to do when I am not really sure why things don’t look right. The design outpost site has everything in public view.

Take a look through some of the current and completed projects to get a sense of the level of work. For those Jason Calacanis follwers (or haters), you can view one of his projects (luxist.com)