How Do You Google? New Eye Tracking Study Reveals Huge Changes

Over the past ten years, the ‘golden triangle’ (the sequence of where people look when viewing Google search results and, indeed, many web pages) has changed to a fuzzy line straight down the left of the page. It used to be that people started on the left, scanned to the right, then moved on down the page – that’s what we have taught in interaction design classes, at least for web designers, for quite a while. Now, they just scroll down. They also make faster (but are they better?) decisions about where to click.

There are clearly many factors that influence this, not least of which being Google’s UI changes, improvements in Google’s algorithms, as well as increasing familiarity with the tools – people are getting better at knowing what to ignore, perhaps less influenced by a lifetime of reading on paper, not to mention the effects of the massive increase in mobile device usage, in which scrolling is pretty much the only game in town. It’s a massively complex self-organizing system and fascinating to see how design and use responsively interact on a web-wide scale. So, now, designers will work on the assumption that people are going to be scrolling down, so that’s what users will learn to do, more and more, and what they will come to expect. But will it last?

It’s intriguing to wonder what will happen next. Though I remain a bit sceptical about wearables like the Apple Watch (at least until battery life gets better and app makers get away from behaviourist models of user psychology), I suspect that might be the next thing to stir up this complex ecosystem. I expect to see more single-glance sites coming soon.

Address of the bookmark:

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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