Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

Google’s New Eye Tracking Research – Misleading?

February 10th, 2009 by

Google’s User Experience Research team used eye-tracking methods to study how users scan the search results page. The heatmap below shows the activity of 34 usability study participants scanning a typical Google results page. The darker the pattern, the more time they spent looking at that part of the page.

This is how Google interprets the “F” search pattern:

“This pattern suggests that the order in which Google returned the results was successful; most users found what they were looking for among the first two results and they never needed to go further down the page”

search pattern f shape Google’s New Eye Tracking Research   Misleading?

But with all the respect to Google research team- I must protest to Google’s suggestion that users found what they were looking for.
The F figure does represent the way users search, and there has been massive research presenting this F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content (Jakob Nielsen , Eyetools)
But, that might be due to the searcher decision to re-phrase the search.
It doesn’t indicate in any way that the search results were satisfying. From my introspection, we might tend to test the first search results and once we find it unsatisfying – we switch to another search query rather than “trust” the next results. It is as if we infer “Google brought me those first results as its best, if they do not fit my needs – I should try another search phrase to improve my results”.
Ironically, our self improvement tendency is not a necessity (and it shouldn’t be upon us!). It may just be another indication of how human adjust to the systems they are used to.

In any case – once you interpret research results you must take full responsibility. That goes for Google as well. The findings to support their claim are missing!

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4 Responses

  1. Outtanames999 Says:

    Good catch! Most usability research is specious b.s. and the conclusions are almost always totally wrong. This doesn’t look like an exception.

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  4. Google and the F-Pattern | COMM1110: Writing for the Web Says:

    [...] interesting counter to the F-shaped reading pattern idea, this article deals with the F-pattern in relation to users’ search results reading habits… [...]

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