I was in a meeting last Friday that was looking at the design of a new blog, when someone asked about best practice in relation to how people view and use web interfaces. Everything that I have ever seen or read suggests that if you draw a line from the top right hand side of the page to the bottom left hand side; users will invariably view everything to the left of the line (the upper left hand side) much more readily than the content on the right hand side of the line (the lower right hand side).
I was therefore interested to see that Google has recently blogged about the outcomes of their eye tracking study. Look at the following image from this study and you can see that most viewing is in the upper left hand side.
For obvious reasons this is often known as the "golden triangle" and it forms part of good web design. See the following examples.
While there is nothing really new in this Google study (Stephen Abram for example has blogged about eye ball tracking thermals and web usability for years) it is interesting that web designers still get this wrong. For example, have a look at the National Gallery of Victoria web site. All the core information and navigation paths are placed on the page in the very places people don't check out first; and the parts of the page where people do tend to look is blank.
Not that I want to pick on the National Gallery of Victoria, but they have won awards for their online offers. Go figure!?! I guess (like this Oscars) this demonstrates you can win awards for excellence and not actually perform. Did you know that Cary Grant, Greta Garbo, and Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, and I bet you have never heard of some of the films which have won an Oscar.
But back to the Google eye tracking study, it is good to see that Google is still interested in "design[ing] a subtle user interface that gives people helpful information without getting in the way of their primary task: finding relevant information." Now if only more people took this approach.