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Study of Text vs Graphics on web

From: by way of Al Gilman <cedisabl@sprynet.com>
Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2000 22:31:53 -0400
Message-Id: <200007160231.WAA2024378@smtp1.mail.iamworld.net>
To: w3c-wai-eo@w3.org
Hello all,

Here is a very interesting study that was done by Poynter Institute and
Stanford.  Sorry about the size, but maybe some will find it usefull.

Pete

----
A Deeper Probe Confirms Findings

By MARION LEWENSTEIN

The next round of analysis is in and text remains the preferred point of
entry over
graphics among online news readers studied by Stanford Universiiy and The
Poynter
histitute.

This subsequent analysis probed more deeply than was possible in our first
cut at the data
released in May and examined the reading patterns of more of the study's
subjects,

Among readers whose first glances on a page do include graphics, the most
recent analysis
shows they're more likely to fixate on banner ads or photographs than on
information
graphics or other forms of artwork.

The dfferences between text and graphics vary depending on how the data is
measured, but
the recent analysis confirms the general findings of preliminary results
released in May.

That report caused a stir among many designers because, among other things,
its text-
before-graphics finding suggested a scenario of online readmg that
contrasts quite sharply
with the generally accepted notion that graplucs represent key entry points
for readers of
printed pages.

To gain understanding of what draws readers to a page of online news, we used

Poynter.org - Centerpiece

sophisticated camera equipment to capture readers'first three
fixation-clusters, a term
that describes usually overlapping glances that include the eye's precise
point of focus
and the immediately surrounding area. We looked at the first three
fixation-clusters
rather than just the first one in order to avoid a bias toward text that
might be created
on slower-loading pages.

In the latest analysis, we included a total of 168 pages containing both
graphics and
text, and examined how these pages were viewed by 66 of the study's 67
subjects.
(Data from one subject was discarded because the results were unreadable.) In
checkmg how many of the subjects'fust glances included graphics, we checked
the
504 fixation-clusters generated by the first three glances at the 168 pages.

We also checked to see how many of the 168 pages had graphic elements that
were
viewed among the first three glances. Finally, we examined the frequency
with which
readers included different forms of artwork -- banner ads, photographs or
other
graphics - in their first three glances.

The study's participants were recruited through notices published in the
Chicago
Sun-Times and the St. Petersburg Times. The subjects were experienced and
regular
users of the web who said they read news online at least three times a week.

22.% Of the 504 glances captured among the subject's first three fixation
clusters, only 112
included artwork.

46%  Viewed another way, the subjects mcluded artwork among their first
three fixations on
78 pages of 168 exammed.

BY ELEMENTS

40% Of 97 pages that included one or more banner ad, 39 pages attracted at
least one of the
readers' first glances to a bamer ad.

37% Of 109 pages that included one or more photograph, 40 pages attracted
at least one of

the reader's first three glances to aphotograph.

23%  Of 142 pages that included one or more graphc element other than
banner or a
photograph, 33 pages attracted at least one of the readers' first three
glances to a graphic
element.

The research was not designed to be predictive but as a begining reality
check of the ways
regular onlme users view news within and across various sites. In effect,
this is the message
we're trying to send to the design community: Here's how 66 regular users
of online news
moved their eyes across the screens of their favorite news sites. What does
this suggest
about how we can most effectively design pages? What future research should be
done to test and challenge this early reality check?

When we first began this research, we did not mtend to focus primarily on
the text vs.
graphics question.  We were expecting to learn which sections of front
pages (e.g. top
right, top left, etc.) drew the eyes first. Because we had most page
elements boxed for
identification, the eyetracking was able to show us specifically when the
eyes focused
on text vs. photos, banners, or graphics.

As we observed subjects moving into their selected pages, we observed a
strong preference
for text over graphics as entry points  To test that impression, we did a
preliminary
examination of approximately every fifth subject, or 14 of the original
group. Of that group of
14, 11 viewed pages that included both text and graphics. We discovered
that the first three
fixation-clusters on seven of those pages included no

Poynter.org - Centerpiece

graphic elements, with four of the pages including graphics among the first
three
glances. That represented a margin of nearly two to one favoring text entry
points (64
percent) to graphics (36 percent).

By that same measure, the follow-up analysis of 66 subjects shows a slimmer
margin,
with 90 (54 percent) of the 168 pages including only text entry points
among the first
three fixation-clusters and 78 pages (46 percent) including graphic elements.

Our examination of all 504 fixation-clusters included among the first three
glances at
the 168 pages shows a stronger preference for text as an entry point, with
just 112 (22
percent) glances at grapluc elements mcluded among the 504.

Because our research did not evaluate the quality of graphics or text
displayed on the
pages studied, its impossible to detemiine what prompted the subjects to
prefer text as
starting points.

Of the 78 pages generating initial glances at graphics, we found that 48
pages with orie
of the first glances going to graphics and the other two to text. On 26
pages, we found
readers glancing at two graphic elements and one text element. On four
pages, all three
of the mitial glances mcluded graphic elements.

We found that 14 of the 66 subjects (22 percent) included no artwork among
their first
three glances at the pages they chose to view.

The preliminary fmdings released in May included only the home page of the
first
news provider read by the 14 subjects checked. For tlns follow-up analysis, we
examined initial glances at the front pages of up to the first four news
providers for

each of the subjects.

In drawmg conclusions from the research, it should be noted that eyetrackmg
research
has shown that some information absorption takes place beyond the area
considered
within an eye fixation-cluster.

So it is possible that artwork is perceived even if there is no direct
fixation on it.

-Marion Lewenstein is Professor of Communication, Emerita, at Stanford
University where she has been teaching, writing, and conducting researchfor
the
last 24 years. She is the principal investigator on the StanfordIPoynter
Project on
Internet news-reading behavior. Earlier she had begun this non-expetimental,
real-life project by videotaping persons reading Internet news at their
homes and
offices. Before joining Stanford, she was a practicingjournalist with various
newspapers and Time, Inc., for 25 years. She has served as a consultant
with news
organizations throughout the United States as well as in China, Great
Britain, and
Italy. 
Received on Saturday, 15 July 2000 22:28:10 UTC

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