Web Site Design: Are We Doing It Right?

Article: Cliff, A. (2000). “Web Site Design: Are We Doing It Right?” Retrieved 23 May, 2000.


In order to understand how people see and obtain information from websites, the Poynter Institute conducted an eye-tracking study that measured in which order people see the elements on a page, how long the eyes stayed focused on each element and how text and graphics links were used to navigate through the site. The study was conducted using news websites and the results were surprising. The findings showed that the readers were more attracted to text than graphics, images and photos. This is contrary to the findings from the study conducted before on newspapers where the readers were first attracted to the photos on a page, then headlines, then text. Web designers have taken the approach to create sites that would look similar to print materials for brand consistency, however, this tells us that the process of obtaining information from the web is different than that of reading print materials, and applying the same techniques as creating print materials in creating websites should be reconsidered. The results also showed that since the graphics were not getting much attention, the banner ads would also not do well. However, it turned out that the subjects paid more attention to the ads than the graphics (Banner ads 45% as opposed to Graphics 22%). The article mentions that these results can be applied to marketing and commerce sites since the fundamental reason for all web audience visits is to look for information. The researchers suggest that while graphics can be used to make the visitors navigate through the site comfortably, the web designers should find ways to incorporate texts effectively.

Conceptual Design: Design websites that communicate the information through the effective use of text. Other elements such as graphics, photographs, and banner ads should be minimized and used primarily for navigation. Matching corporate brand is still important but as this article points out, the web designers should keep in mind that people have different methods for obtaining information from websites as opposed to print materials. Banner ads should be unobtrusive, otherwise they distract the readers from the content of the site and they might not return because they did not find any value.

Interactive Design: Web  users are not opposed to having more text elements over graphical elements, so the content can be organized as such that the users can read articles in one scrolling page, instead of breaking it up into many smaller pages. To make the navigation through the site more comfortable, graphics elements can be used, but text is preferred. As a side effect this will also help sites to load faster.

Interface Design: Website should have a minimal use of graphics but should still have the brand reflected in the design. Graphics can be used but should not interfere with reading informative text.

Because this article was written over 9 years ago, I would be interested in whether the same study has been conducted since then and if the results have changed at all. Web culture has changed over the past 10 years and in reading this article and the 2nd article, it seems that we have grown to want to obtain information as quickly and efficiently as possible. I believe this was the year when the dot com bubble burst or was about to, so I wonder if the web designers have different view/approach in creating websites since then.

  1 comment for “Web Site Design: Are We Doing It Right?

  1. April 18, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Conceptual Design: I wonder if this is true across all types of Web sites? I can imagine that some sites—informational sites—for which this is applicable, but there could be others that are approached differently by the users. In general, we have to understand the audience—motivations, goals, needs.
    I think good designers tend to make less sweeping generalizations. Also, the band-width has changed dramatically, so big graphics are not as much of a hindrance as they used to be. Video, on the other hand, is now the new graphics…

Comments are closed.