Mashable published a report this week in conjunction with Eye Track Shop, a company that monitors the eye movements of readers on various websites. This particular study tracked what reader's eyes were naturally drawn to on all of the top social networks.
The graphs were dispayed in Dopplar maps, opacity maps and numbered illustrations. I found the opacity maps the most helpful, as they blacked out the parts of each screen that were viewed the least, and showed clearly what areas were viewed the most. Above is an example of the opacity map for a typical Facebook page. As you can see, the profile picture, name, most recent posts, and friends lists got the most attention. On Linked-IN, which is a site for professional networking, the job title got the most attention.
What surprised me on several of the sites was that the actual site's logo (Flickr, YouTube) got more attention than the content. This is good for branding for the website, but not so good for the people posting their content on the site.
On nearly all of the sites, photos and posts near the top of the page got more attention than the content futher down. On Twitter, the content further down on the page did get a little more attention than on the other sites. Twitter's format is a little different from most sites, in that its content is in "micro-blogging" format, and posts tend to be about a sentence long, building on one another, which might normally cause people to reactively look "down the stream" to see what current posts are referencing.
There are some general principles we can learn from this study about content placement on our own websites.
- Your logo matters. A high-contrast dual color logo is likely to get the attention of readers, and contribute to brand recogntion. Just realize this may be the ONLY thing they remember about your site.
- Your credentials and network are important. Unless your brand name is a household name (or the online equivalent thereof), people are going to instinctively want to know what you do and who endorses you, so make sure this information is easily visible near the top of your page. They may not take time to scroll all over your site to find the link.
- Your first post is going to get the most attention. If your content is time-sensitive, you'll want your most recent content to display first. If not, you'll want your most popular content to display first.
This is the virtual equivalent of putting your best foot forward. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make sure its an impresion you WANT your customers to remember.