Wasting Money on Content in Visual Dead Zones

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E*Trade’s homepage from January 2001

Visual dead zones reduced E*Trade’s ability to communicate with their target customers, because low percentages of people read their promotional content.

Blog homepage redesign optimization study

This is an old story*, but one of my favorites because it illustrates an important point, yet was really fun:

We eyetracked E*Trade’s homepage and then inserted gibberish into it to illustrate that content in a “visual dead zone” doesn’t get read and might as well not exist.

To identify parts of E*Trade’s homepage that weren’t being viewed, we collected eyetrack data on just 4 people (not too many people, eh?) as they surfed E*Trade’s website to decide for themselves whether they wanted to sign up for E*Trade’s services. We found that about 1/5 of the screen real estate above the fold was being wasted, so once we located un-viewed areas, we came up with gibberish to replace the existing text on a cached version of their homepage (this was a lot of fun!).

Examples of the gibberish tested on E*Trade’s homepage:

  • FDIC distrusts us * No Bank Quality * Will Lose Value
  • Not ready to event an insurance? Tax group of our manager discussion free of funds.
  • Get $25 to close an E*Trade Bank Money Market Plus Advice! Tax a gear cool and ATM access!
  • …and more

Then, we re-tested the modified homepage in the lab. As a secondary test, we also sent it out to a bunch of people who we didn’t eyetrack. After people had seen the page while evaluating whether they were interested in signing up for E*Trade’s services, we asked them if there was anything strange about the homepage. Only 1 in 25 people noticed!

The moral of the story is, if you wish to optimize your content: If content on your webpage is in a visual dead zone, it might as well not exist. People can’t click on what they don’t see. Money and time spent on content in a visual dead zone is wasted.

* This is an old E*Trade website — we ran this test in January 2001. Since then, E*Trade has become a client, and is very proactive in working to improve the experience for their customers.

March 20th 2005 Uncategorized

Guiding a Website Redesign With Eyetracking — an Eyetools Case-Study

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A PDF of a homepage redesign using Eyetools eyetracking can be found here (4 pages, 905 K, images of a site before/after, plus Eyetools heatmaps).

Several people have asked how eyetracking can be used for homepage optimization, and they wanted more details regarding using eyetracking to guide the redesign of a website (with large-size images of the before and after websites + eye data). So, here it is!

Note: this is a full detailed version of a short blog entry I made earlier.

March 18th 2005 Uncategorized

Eyetracking Google Search Results — Eyetools Research (This One Should Help With Search Engine Optimization (SEO/SEM) Planning).

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Eyetools Heatmap of people searching on
Google Search Results

Eyetools Heatmap of Google Search Results

(How to interpret an Eyetools heatmap)

New Eyetools EyeTracking Study verifies the importance of page position and rank in both Organic and Pay-per-click search results for visibility and click through in Google.

(PRWEB) — A joint eye tracking study conducted by eye tracking firm Eyetools and search marketing firms Enquiro and Did-it.com has shown that the vast majority of eye tracking activity during a search happens in a triangle at the top of the search results page indicating that the areas of maximum interest create a "golden triangle."

These eyetracking results apply to Search Engine Optimization and Marketing.

Read more…


People don’t always realize that they can optimize their landing pages using eyetracking to better convert their traffic into sales. If you’re paying for traffic, you can make a huge improvement in ROI by optimizing landing pages (30% boost in sales!).

March 11th 2005 Uncategorized

CSS Zen Garden — an Eyetools Eyetracking Analysis

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Design decisions affect what people read. The CSS Zen Garden always has the same content but different visual treatments — and you can see how this affects reading.

Same content, different visual treatments
Original homepage
(live site)
Version 145
(live site)
CSS Zen Garden version 1 CSS Zen Garden version 145

CSS Zen Garden is a beautiful place — it demonstrates the power of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and the flexibility of design because the content is always the same but the visual treatments are very creative and very different! Here are two examples (stay tuned for more in the future).

Notice that version 145 has great use of sub-heads and increased reading of the paragraphs below them relative to the original homepage.

The navigation bar on Version 145 is viewed and clicked more.

Also the wider column gets less reading across the width of the page on the original homepage. You can see people start to read and then stop.

March 1st 2005 Uncategorized