Column Versus Tabular Layout of Paragraphs in Message Conveyance: Visual Processing Study Based on Eye-Tracking Data

Abstract :

Human visual activity has been investigated by researchers from various scientific fields for many years. It has been shown many times that eye-tracking studies can be helpful in objectively evaluating usability of interacting systems. The present paper study extend this direction of research by examining visual scan characteristics registered while performing search tasks in mock-up web pages. For this purpose, four different, simple web pages were prepared. They differed by two factors specified on two levels: the background and text color combination (black text on white background and the other way round) and the text layout (one or two columns). Male participants performed 16 experimental tasks on each web page variant. A stationary, infrared eye-tracking system was employed to gather visual activity data of subjects placed in an isolated room with Venetian mirror. The data were further examined qualitatively by analyzing heat maps, and quantitatively by applying three- and two-ways ANOVAs for fixation durations, saccades’ durations and amplitudes. The results showed the combined, interactive impact of the analyzed factors on information is searched characteristics. They also suggest the most efficient combination of factors: white background and two-column layout of paragraphs. The presented findings are valuable for designers of information such as web pages or visual marketing messages.