A Jakob Nielsen Eyetrack Study

I regularly read the Jakob Nielsen usability newsletter, and this week he presented results from some eyetracking studies from the U.S. Census Bureau site. In the scanning images, red shows frequent hits,


The point that struck me the most was that users were attracted most to navigational elements – either the search box, the left hand navigation buttons, the category links or the links list. Interestingly, the users skipped over the red text with the population countdown and the bottom Annual report link even though they were meant to be highlighted.
According to Nielsen, anything that looks like it could be an ad is typically ignored, so too much highlighting can be just as bad as too little. In this case the red text combined with the large font made the census count look a bit like an ad. Even worse, it’s “not navigation”, so users are really not paying attention.
I suspect that red text is most problematic on a home page where lots of other navigational choices are presented. It would be interesting to see how users react red text on a page with more information.

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