The Eyes Have It

A Surprise In Nielsen's Online Attention Study

by Stephen Von Worley on November 12, 2010

The human mind excels at kicking irrelevance to the curb, as usability expert Jakob Nielsen confirms in his latest eye-tracking studies. According to the data, online users fixate on pertinent pictures but ignore the generic schlock – like that insufferable stock photo of some model banging happily on an unplugged keyboard.

To illustrate, Jakob posted screenshots of a few Web pages, annotated with blue dots where typical users focus their attentions. I’ve excerpted his diagram of “painless billing” purveyor Fresh Books’ Our Team page, which Nielsen wrapped into three columns:

"Our Team" Eye-Tracked

As expected, per Jakob’s thesis, the eyes start out in the header, and from there, they filter down through the series of employee photos along the left margin. Then… huh? Something odd happens.

About a dozen faces deep – near the middle top of Jakob’s diagram – a thick cluster of blue dots almost completely blots out the underlying head shot. Apparently, this single member of Fresh Books’ fine staff attracts more eyeballs than the others combined…

But why? Is he or she scantily clad? Smoking hot? Cuddling with puppies? Eating them?

I had to find out, so I surfed over to, pulled up their Our Team page, scrolled down, and centered my attention on the gaze-grabbing mug of Network Operations Manager Rich Lafferty:

Lafferty and 'Stache

The Index Finger Mister Pringles look – accessorized with raised eyebrow – is poised to kill in 2011! You heard it here first.

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