How the eyes move across a screen The Stanford/Poynter research is the first known study of how readers read on the web, conducted using Eye-Track technology. A few highlights of the findings:
Users’ eyes go first not to photographs or graphics, but to text. Briefs or captions are first. Next, they come back to photos or graphics, often not until they have returned to the first page after clicking away. We learn that the designer’s first chance to engage the reader is through text. We continue to see patterns in which text is sought out and skimmed or read.
Much research continues, and even though the Stanford/Poynter study indicates that text is preferred over photos, I attribute this to the fact that many news web sites do not use photos properly, often copying the newspaper layout. As a result, photos are presented in a reduced format and their impact is lost. An early study conducted at the Poynter Institute, showed that photos were the first point of entry for print readers. Why? Because most of the time, papers publish dominant photos that command instant attention. When we reduce a photograph to the size of a postcard, impact disappears. However, if photos are presented separate, and sized appropriately, users will look to them as a key piece of the story. 87