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The Stanford Poynter Project Study 96

sredding writes: "The Stanford Poynter Project has some interesting conclusions after a study of Internet news readers. 'Two years ago Stanford University and The Poynter Institute researchers began collaborating to learn how frequent Internet news readers went about perusing news online.' It's an interesting read for Web designers." Cool info and interesting statistics, especially the one about how people jump for text first, not pictures. Take that, Mosaic! Lynx forever! ;)
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The Stanford Poynter Project Study

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  • Man... I need to pay more attention to AlertBox. Nielsen's abridged version is much easier to read than mucking through the Poynter page.

    Wired also has a good article [wired.com] on the study.

    In the Wired article it states, "The number of surfers who click on ad banners has already dwindled to an average of about two-tenths of 1 percent. If readers don't even look at graphics on a Web site, that number might not go up anytime soon."

    If this is true, maybe we'll see a decrease in the use of banners.

  • I would just like to note that Lynx was made (or at least started) by people at Kansas University. When alot of people think of Kansas they assume that everyone is a farmer and that everyone lives in a small town which is not necessarily true. With a little plug for Lynx from slashdot, I wanted to make sure I acknowledged that not all computer innovation has to come from crowded cities and long commutes.

  • start rant I would love to reward myself with a big 21" Sony monitor! endrant

    #ifdef RANT
    Noooo. Why do people always do this? A 21" monitor will give you around 211 square inches of screen real estate. A dual headed setup with two 17" monitors gives you around 277 square inches. That's 30% more usable screen space. Two 17" Iiyama VM410 Pro monitors are also 25% cheaper than the Iiyama 22" VM510 Pro. That's more than enough to cover the cost of a dual headed video card (like the Matrox G400 MAX) or a second regular video card. So tell me again why you want a 21" monitor? Of course, if you can afford it, a dual-headed setup using 21" monitors would be rather nice...
    #endif /* RANT */

  • by orabidoo ( 9806 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2000 @12:35AM (#959564) Homepage
    err, no, slashdot works great under lynx. it actually shows the page (the text) as it loads, unlike netscape, which waits until all the <table>'s have been closed. I read /. everyday under lynx, and find it extremely clunky whenever I look at it with Netscape. In fact, I find lynx great for reading news sites, where (as the article says) you go for the text anyway. on overdesigned commercial sites, you usually get 3 or 4 screenfuls of crap at the top (for things like left navigation on graphical browsers), but you learn to skip them *really* quickly, and you don't even give them a bit of attention. lynx is a great timesaver; I'd consider switching over to links (the newer text-mode browser) only if it implemented a lynx-like mode which flattens tables.
  • Have you browsed slashdot in Lynx? It is terrible. Perhaps some effort could made for a more lynx-friendly slashdot? :)
  • Am I the only one that thought of usenet when reading this?

    No, you're not. I read the word "news" and immediately thought usenet.

    The internet was so much nicer when the general population wasn't on it.

    I couldn't agree more. I used to long for the day when everyone would be online. It was a very civilised place to be, and a nice way to communicate with others. Well, now they're all here, and I wish they weren't. The unwashed masses have changed the character of the net. It's not the same place it used to be :-(

  • I detest sites with 4" columns. Read read, scroll scroll scroll, read, scroll ... There are several examples of 'artsy' sites that I no longer visit because of their persistant use of 3" or 4" columns. It's ok to use narrow columns on the main page so that lots of stories can be presented in a small space but when it comes to reading the article I want it to go margin to margin, or nearly so at least.


  • One thing I note about banner ads is that if I see one that catches my eye it's almost inevitably just after I've click a link to move on to another page. But since the ads are most often random one cannot return and find the same ad.

    Mind you with adzap [zip.com.au] running on squid I am rarely confronted by this issue.

  • You must be the first person I have _ever_ encountered that reads Playboy for news.

  • I was sure that they were talking about usenet with the expression Internet news readers until I noticed that the news reader was the user and not the tool.

    BTW, be careful what you wish for. I still read news and I'm really pretty happy that most clueless newbies don't. And when they do show up they usually end up needing a flame retardent garment after they've blundered their way into a group without reading the FAQ.

  • This is a DoS attack. Sue him.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The (western) world was indeed much nicer when all the books were in Latin, Arabic, and Greek. ;-)

    Kept out the unwashed masses insisting on membership of a proper guild or showing your lineage to get access to a library, things really went downhill when they learnt that printing lark from the Chinese, all sorts of handbills and flyers and other such spam all over the place...

    ...Times change...

  • The article layout was actually pretty effective if you stayed long enough to get to the tracking examples. In fact, it seems a pretty good model for educational presentations. With multiple windows open, however, and none maximized, you lose some of the text, such as the list of News Topics. What it really needed was a better set of clues than the de-emphasized tabs for TOC, About, etc. Odd that a site devoted to a study of internet reading wouldn't have a paragraph about the choices made in designing the study site.

    Like most GUIs, the study ignores an obvious group of news-users who cannot easily physically read the online news. Most web sites make life only more difficult for the visually impaired, who rely on audio interpretations, Braille readers, or extreme magnification. (Not to mention anyone who doesn't have the bandwidth or hardware to handle your typical flash-bang site.) Not enough people know about the NIST standards for multiply-accessible web sites, or even about the Linux adaptive technologies efforts. How many installathons have someone ready to answer questions about making Linux work for everybody? Even geeks can have physical differences.

    And while I'm ranting, sign your organ donor card. Your parts have a much longer shelf life than your computers' parts.

  • In an interesting parallel, earlier eye-tracking research has shown that experienced web surfers automatically distract themselves from graphics that are advert-sized, or have annoying animation (and are therefore likely to be adverts). One method people used was to wiggle the mouse and watch the cursor move about.

    The early eye-tracking research is mentioned in this article [useit.com]. I used to have an url for the study, but I can no longer find it. The article just referenced berates user registration forms, or at least it says you should delay registration, says that most web advertising is a waste of money, and the best (most cost-effective) way of attracting users is through affiliate programs.

    Probably most interesting and useful is this 1997 article [useit.com] on how users read on the web. It gives great advice on laying out content in a way that users will be comfortable with.


  • I am a web designer for 4 years now and work at a design and art reproduction firm. It's increasingly apparent to me that the mood of a website GREATLY effect the user's reading habits. For example, Slashdot *looks* technical and utilitarian. There's a greater focus on text, obviously. If you're not as much a techie, you'd probably be turned off (yet still amazed!) by Slashdot's wealth of information.

    On the other hand, my company's website promotes "calmness." Lavenders, softer colors, very little black, and integrated, soft pictures. People comment that when browing our e-commerce store (3000 lines of Perl written by myself over 2 weekends, yikes!) they feel very calm and "safe" and ready to make purchases.

    Very interesting stuff.
    Hey, anyone wanna bring back ing text?
  • Well, i use about 8 to 15 windows always when i'm on the net, but the typical user i've seen gets confused with 2 or 3.

    "We will run this with the same kind of openness we have run Windows,"
  • by anonymous cowerd ( 73221 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2000 @05:27AM (#959577) Homepage

    OK, here's the Poynter Institute bolting a metal frame onto a browser-user's head and monitoring his every eye motion. Don't you suppose that all that intensive surveillance might just possibly have some small effect on the user's behavior? Like, all alone, without the head gear, what could be more natural than if he might have headed on over to playboy.com [playboy.com] to spend a few minutes or even hours grazing among the bitmaps [playboy.com] and multimedia [playboy.com].

    Now imagine that this same browsing subject has a birdcage studded with electronic doodads bolted around his skull, and a variety of all-too-serious sociologists peering over his shoulder. I'd guess that under those circumstances our lab rat will spend a good deal more time perusing something serious and scholarly like that lighthouse for the investment class the New York Times [nytimes.com], or even our own grave and stately slashdot [slashdot.org].

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

  • Um. I remember that some network computers were designed to have one visible window in order to not confuse users.

    So they might be right.
  • Lynx never impressed me. A Lynx clone, known as Links [browser.org], can render tables. w3m [browser.org], a HTML pager, can also render tables (and frames). Slashdot in text never looked so good.
  • we found that banner ads do catch online readers' attention

    Utter rubbish. I never look at them. I do feel an urge to rush out and buy SuSE 6.4 for some reason though.
  • by Fizgig ( 16368 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @10:44PM (#959581)
    Something I've always wondered about, which this doesn't seem to cover, is does the general population use multiple browser windows and move back and forth between them like I imagine most of us do? I've had a LOT of non-techie people ask me how I made a new window when they see me browsing. I guess it's not that easy to figure out on your own (sure seems like it, though). This seems like a pretty relevant browsing-habit question; any guesses?
  • How can you read Slashdot in one window?

    I always find, oh, an interesting link, -> new window, I want to read this reply and its subcomments, -> new window.

    Maybe it's because of my latency but I am always opening new windows. When I end (or get bored)with the current one, I pass to the next one, which, by that time, should be fully loaded.
  • My guess is that (at least for news sites) readers (viewers?) tend to assume that graphics are ads, or don't help much. Honestly, most news photos, while interesting, don't actually add to the story (then again, my mind is more verbal than visual). This is reversed if I know I'm going to a site like UserFriendly or Fluble, where the primary interest is a graphics file.

  • I do the same thing, though I have very low latency. It's just much more comfortable that way.
  • I think it's confusing for lots of people. Once I was on the net searching something for my sister. Two windows open was bad enough, with three or more she was totally confused.

    But I use two or three windows all the time. It allows me to read an article and the link in it at the same time, or to go back to the original article in a way that guarantees that it's still in the same state.

  • I think that's more due to the shitty way in which Netscape "renders" a page.

    Yes, but sites that are dependent on ad revenue take advantage of the way that browsers render a page. Load order is very important to keeping some advertisers and media buyers satisfied. If you can find a way to load two things immediately, marketers and ad sales people will cheer (well not really, but they will not say as many nasty things about you). Those two page elements are: the "branding" (your logo, and major partners' logos); and the revenue-generating ads.

    So, if you go to a news site and spend a second or two staring at a banner because it's the only thing on the screen while the rest of the page loads, it is probably by design. Someone tweaked and played with the page design in order to get the browser to load things in the order they wanted to. Of caourse, this can happen by accident too, but all of the times I've been involved with designs that render this way, it was a matter of choice, not accident.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    success always occurs in private, and failu(re in public) Hehe. :).
  • Doesn't matter. Load a page with images, and before it starts displaying, go make a cup of coffee. Come back, and watch your eyes absorb all the header text first, long before you care about most pictures. (Exception: pr0n will probably catch your eye faster, because that's a reproductive advantage. Or, would be if you were really seeing potential mates.)
  • Whatever happened to Oog the Caveman? I miss him :(
  • Wouldn't it be obvious that news readers would skip over the graphics. (I could have told them this without the study)
    1. Graphics are Use for:

    2. Advertisement
    3. Decoration
    4. Navigation

    None of these have any useful function to a person interested in reading the news that is on the page.

  • Yeah, talk about bad layout. It's completely against all reason to put the text on the far right like that. I'm not kidding, it threw me right off. Picture on top, text below, that's the normal layout.
  • I often have over 10 browser windows open at once. Being really used to a slow link (56k modem at home, with pay-per-minute charges in UK) and only a single ISDN at work (but there are only 8 people in the office), I'll tend to load a main news page (such as /., or bluesnews), and for every link that looks interesting I'll 'open in new window', switch back to the main page while that's loading, and repeat as neccessary. Then, when everything's loading nicely, I'll go back to the first article, which should have loaded by now, and read it. Then move onto the next. etc...

    If I'm at home, as soon as I see the modem activity drop to 0 for more than 10 seconds, I'll assume everything's loaded & cut the link.

    So, first thing in the morning, I'll load up /., load in all the stories (and links to other pages in title blurb on main page) in their own window, and all the interesting BBC SciTech stories (plus whatever else looks good in the slashboxes I've got loaded).

    Then I'll have around 20 browser windows open. I'll read one or two things to start with, and then work some, and read the rest when I'm waiting for builds to finish, or having a snack, or 'percolating' to problem solve, etc...

    This is on top of MS Dev Studio, Netscape messenger inbox, MSDN, MS VSS, Delphi, Explorer, Bash (under cygwin) plus whatever else I happen to be doing.

    Alt+Tab is my friend. As are tooltips.
  • I'm very minimalistic - no shit on my desktop - no shit in my tasks. I just back and forth a lot :) Works for me :)
  • Nope. That's the first thing I thought of too.
  • Here's the question you need to ask though. Given that there is a huge picture on the page, where did you actually look first? I noted a large annoying graphic and a sidebar of text that was a nontraditional layout. I looked at the page long enough to figure out where the content was. As soon as I saw the text I began reading the story and ignored the graphic. Annoying graphic and strange layout be damned, just give me the content!
  • According to this page [poynter.org] not one person in this study ever looked slashdot, but SOMEONE looked at PostalNews.com [postalnews.com] 9 times.
  • Don't forget new window for posting one's own comments too.

    Now that I think about it, I almost never left click a link... If a page is mostly content, I read, then close it. If it's full of links (front pages of sites mostly), I go through it, opening new windows...
  • I don't see why this is funny? He's absolutely right, the layout really SUCKS.

  • by SuperguyA1 ( 90398 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @09:31PM (#959599) Homepage
    You know... for a sight claiming that the eye jumps for text first they have an awefully big
    picture with an awfully small sidebar of text.

  • by cannes ( 151121 )
    LOAF and lynx are my choice out of the office.
  • Now I have stats to bludgeon my companies' web desginers with. I keep telling them the web is not a glossy brochure, but they just won't listen.
  • Wow, kind of counter what a lot of HCI people would say. However, most users of the Web probably do ignore the visual crap and look for content after a short intro time....
    -- The Hollow Man
  • I think it has a lot to do with connection speed...

    I'm still stuck on a 56k modem... so on just about any page I look at... the text renders before any images....

    Therefore I look at the text first.. since it is there first... But I still look at the pictures..

    Link to full screen attention grabbing data:
    http://www.poynter.org/eyetrack 2000/toc/frontpg.htm [poynter.org]
  • by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @09:40PM (#959604)
    Where do eyes go initially after firing up the first screenful of online news? To text, most likely. Not to photos or graphics, as you might expect.

    Ha!! I told you so. I go to read the articles at playboy.com, not look at the pictures :)

  • Thats about the worst use of frames I've seen on a professional site yet...

    The article broken down into 3 or 4 pages with the graphs and data tables inline would have been much better...

    No reason I need to scroll 20 times to read a single article.. (and guess what.... I didn't)

  • by kaip ( 92449 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @09:41PM (#959606) Homepage

    The Poynter Eyetrack study was discussed, with interesting commentary, in May 14 edition of Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox [useit.com].

  • by orange syringe ( 207312 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @09:50PM (#959607) Homepage
    If you want to skip the huge image and read the article in a larger frame, use this link [poynter.org].
  • A way to get more specific answers than one can from videotaping is to track eye movements. So we began another study. This one used eyetracking equipment that recorded where the eyes stopped to absorb information. That tells us what our subjects read. We also could track movement from site to site.

    News watching log digest for user B1FF:

    TEXT: In this latest issue of Sports Illustrated, we have Natalie Portman modeling the latest bikinis, and

    Follows link, eyes hover over pictures for 100 minutes.


    TEXT: In today's 1M A K001 D00D cooking section, a new recipe for hot grits!

    Follows link, eyes follow text at rate of 2 words a minute.


    TEXT: H0W T0 B3 AN 3133T HAX0R revals the pros secrets on how to turn your computer on!

    Follows link, computer powered off 30 seconds after eyes are on main article page.

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose that you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
  • by Tony Hammitt ( 73675 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @10:49PM (#959609)
    Lots of money wasted here. Everyone has experienced net lag and knows intuitively that pictures take a long time to load. So we have gotten used to looking for the text first, then looking at the pictures that may actually be loaded by then. If everyone would just use the ALT tags like they're supposed to, I wouldn't ever look at pictures.

    Oh well, why can't they waste money in my direction? =-p
  • If you want 4" wide columns, why not make your browser window 4" wide, instead of forcing the rest of us to waste screen space on useless margins? Or write yourself a stylesheet.
  • by Woolfie ( 23509 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @09:53PM (#959611)
    Yes, content is king. Content in the sense of *usable information*. But also keep in mind that people love to get things presented in an attractive way. And that also includes graphics.
    This said, the study doesn't really make a point against embedding text in a graphical environment. No matter where people look first, the overall impression of a page has a huge influence on wether people come back or not. And the "commercial web" is all about making people come back. That for sure doesn't excuse these glossy macromedia flash company presentation websites that take longer to load than anyone would be ready to wait - but I support a sensible use of graphic elements on websites. Btw...anyone working on a text-only version of "userfriendly"? With ASCII graphics? :-)
  • we found that banner ads do catch online readers' attention
    Utter rubbish. I never look at them. I do feel an urge to rush out and buy SuSE 6.4 for some reason though.

    I'm sure I'm not the only person who's learned to tune out any image that's set off from the page and wider than it is high.

  • Two years ago Stanford University and The Poynter Institute researchers began collaborating to learn how frequent Internet news readers went about perusing news online.

    Am I the only one that thought of usenet when reading this? Have people totally given up on usenet? I remember the first time that someone sent SPAM to every newsgroup. His ISP was DoSed with all of the replies complaining. The internet was so much nicer when the general population wasn't on it.

    How to 'peruse news online' has become an art of dodging spam and looking for uuencoded binaries. -sigh-

  • Funny...this is the opposite of how Slashdot has their site and Banner ads configured. You immediately see the banner ad (servered up by one of 4 bitchin ad^h^h image servers) and you wait for the text to appear.

  • Heh, heh, heh. I remember accessing slashdot from the Harvard Law School library, on a system that was in those days known as "MIT". They ran the thing from a box of five Hewlett Packard "Financial Analyst" calculators, networked together in an Ivanhoe cluster. Storage came from a tape recorder or "Walkman" as we called them in those days. Boy, that sucker could be down for days at a time ....

    I remember some fantastic trolls from those days ... you could always get people going by starting a flamewar between Texas Instruments and Hewlett Packard fans. There was this guy called opensourceman, who used to be obsessed with Gloria Gaynor ... wonder what the hell happened to him

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hey, not everyone can afford those uncheap unshitty beers! Did you know that a tall can of beer costs 3 dollars in Iceland? And that's at the licensed store, at a bar you pay at least 7 dollars for the same amount.
  • ... that they spell pointer wrong?
  • Use w3m, it renders slashdot perfectly, and I think it's a better text-mode browser than lynx.
  • 1. skim through the slashdot headlines

    2. quickly reading the 'Stanford Poynter Project Study' headline while remembering having read about it this morning in the newspaper. Otherwise this headline would have been bad for me since I wouldn't have known what 'Stanford Poynter' was all about.

    3. Clicking on the 'read more' link using the middle mousebutton (=open in new window). I use the middle button far more than I use the left one.

    4. Returning to the main slahdot window and middle click on the link to the project since I know that on our slow compagny line the slashdot comments take a while to load.

    5. Skimming through the 'introducery highlights' table on the right of the screen (why do they place that on the right of the screen and not on the left???).

    6. click on the slashdot comments window. Nice, the comments have loaded. Skimming through the comments, noticing the comment about Jacob Nielssens alertbox.

    7. Middle click on the alertbox link.

    8. Skim through the alertbox reading the part dealing with the main findings (inverted pyramid scheme at work!!!)

    9. Send the alertbox text to the printer so I can read the whole alertbox on my way home.

    10. Add the Poynter page to my bookmarks.

    11. Close the stanford window and the alert window and start writing this comment.
  • This question was answered recently in the affirmative on Jakob Neilsen's UseIt [useit.com] which has lots of useful commentary on these kind of usability studies - going back through a couple years' worth will reward your time - or just buy the book, whatever :-) He cites a study which shows that using two browser windows is a common way of dealing with lag when loading sites and that users seem to have no trouble with it.
  • Lynx is great with slashdot! (Or is slashdot great with lynx?) One of the things that I love most is that I can just press E to edit a link, thus making it easy to adjust the threshold or listing mode without having to load the page first. This works particularly nicely with threshold, because it is the last part of the link. Consider how I'd do that with Netscape; it's a lengthy procedure.
  • The study doesn't make the point against embedding text in a graphical environment. No matter where people look first, the overall impression of a page has a huge influence on whether people come back or not. I see more and more webpages that use flash or Java. And have virtually no useful information to give.

    Everyone has experienced net lag and knows intuitively that pictures take a long time to load. So we have gotten used to looking for the text first, then looking at the pictures that may actually be loaded by then. If everyone would just use the ALT tags like they're supposed to, I wouldn't ever look at pictures.
  • They recruited subjects by placing ads [useit.com] in the online versions of the Chicago Sun-Times and the St. Petersburg Times. In addition, a chief criterion for selection was that the candidate read news online 3 hours or more per week.

    This could explain the higher-than-I-would-have-expected attention to banner ads. Also explains what baffled one reporter: why the Sun-Times site beat the online Chicago Tribune two-to-one.

  • I think that's more due to the shitty way in which Netscape "renders" a page.
  • Indeed. Before I had my cable connection chez moi I used to turn off graphics in Netscape and would only click the show graphics button if it was really necessary.
  • jkirby plaintively asks, "Can someone please explaing this statement?"

    Sure thing.

    Way back before the earth's crust had cooled, the two first popular web browsers were Lynx [trill-home.com] and Mosaic [delphi.com]. Other early web browsers included the CERN line-mode browser and Cello. Lynx is character-mode, a.k.a. a text browser. Mosaic was the first popular graphical browser. Both Lynx and Mosaic came out about the same time, in 1993. The developers of Mosaic went on to Netscape, and Micros~1 Internet Explorer is based on a licensed copy of Spyglass Mosaic.


  • The Silicon Valley Webguild will be hosting: Marion Lewenstein professor of communications at Stanford for a talk on: "How do people read on the Web?" on July 12th at Cypress Semiconductor in North San Jose, CA, USA, which will directly address the The Stanford/Poynter Eyetrack2000 Project.

    The meeting is free and anyone is welcome to attend. Check the www.webguild.org [webguild.org] website for more information.

  • I have just comparison of slashdot useing lynx, and links ( I normally use lynx). I must say that lynx does a better job than links because of the way tables are rendered. links tends to squash the sidebars with the content, however it did display the tables correctly. Im going to assume its because of the low page width the page looks funny under links.
  • MAn, we sound like our grandparents. But I happen to agree with you. Usenet is basically 100% crap now, especially alt.binaries.pictures.erotica. I mean, there's nuthin but spam. I just want my porn. I say that we need new rules: Anyone can WWW, but you have to take a test before you can get on usenet. - Rev.
  • The problem with w3m is that it has to load the page fully in order to know how to render it. Somewhat like Netscape. You buy some time by skipping graphics, but lose otherwise. I think you're stuck.

    Mozilla (and IE 5.x) both render and redraw on the fly. This makes for much faster percieved page loads and redraws (say if you resize a window). If the console-mode browsers could emulate this behavior, things might be cool, but I'm not sure how 'zactly you'd go about doing that.

    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Scope out Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org]

  • The other value of multiple windows is that you can choose different display settings for, say, full page vs. a thread.

    For full page, I tend to set threshold at 2 (or 3, if things are really bad), mode to threaded, highest moderated and most recent first. For a thread, I prefer threshold=0 (filter nothing but trolls), and mode to nested. I do this by hand-editing the URL (eg: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=00/07/04/04302 49&mode=nested&threshold=0&cid=46), and changing the cid to view different threads.

    It would be kinda nice to be able to set seperate front page and thread view modes ;-)

    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Scope out Kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org]

  • I did the exact same thing!
  • Yeah, build up the site and have it worthy of a mention on slashdot. Then just wait for the slashdot effect!

  • Where do eyes go initially after firing up the first screenful of online news? To text, most likely. Not to photos or graphics, as you might expect. Instead, briefs or captions get eye fixations first, by and large. The eyes of online news readers then come back to the photos and graphics, sometimes not until they have returned to the first page after clicking away to a full article.

    News flash! When people read news, they actualy do read!

    Wow. Who'da thunk, huh?

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose that you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
  • I noticed that the size of the study was small, only 67 people, and 40ish hours of gathered info. To me this means the results and reality may vary wildly. Also they don't say how they selected their study group.
  • "especially the one about how people jump for text first, not pictures. Take that, Mosaic! Lynx forever! ;) " Talk about a crock of SHIT! Can someone please explaing this statement?
  • From the FAQ on the site:

    This current work is neither a survey such as an exit poll, nor an experiment with controlled conditions, but rather a study. We went out and looked at the way things were for a certain subset of people, a sample of those who read online news at least three times a week. The main advantage of a study is that it allows the researcher to look around in an open-minded way, without a predetermined agenda.


    However, studies are not predictive in the way that an experiment or a survey is. They require more judgment about what constitutes "a lot" or "a little." And they require more judgment about what aspects of the data are stable and noteworthy, and which are ephemeral.


    This study is not statistically valid as would be a survey, but we are able to draw general conclusions in some areas and make inferences in others. As researchers, we try to present carefully what we say 'flat out' and what we hedge or qualify.

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose that you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
  • From personal experience being a news junkie, I love reading from sites which presents text in nice 4" (approx.) columns e.g. is /. main page and byte.com.

    Loathe those left margin to right margin full of text! Hard to read on screen. Have to resort to printing e.g. HOW TOs on Linux.

    start rant I would love to reward myself with a big 21" Sony monitor! end rant

  • I use "lite mode" (it's in the user preferences somewhere). Sometimes it's a bit hard to see the layout of the threads, but it looks fine with Lynx for me.

  • by zaugg ( 87876 ) on Monday July 03, 2000 @10:05PM (#959641)
    Go back to the page (you have glanced at it, haven't you?) and do your own eye-tracking experiment. Looks like a fair bit of thought has gone into the frameset (although it has been critisised [slashdot.org] below.

    The content loads first, and its unusual positioning grabs your eye. I read a paragraph or two, until I headed to the innocuous grey caption -- before I noticed the picture with the cyborg style eye tracker. The TOC doesn't load until clicked, presumably to lead you into the introduction without distractions. Oh, there was a logo up in the corner.

    While their results were about news sites, the principles are pretty well demonstrated on there site. Like the site or not, it seems to re-enforce their findings (coincidence? I think not.)

    Of course, given a particular browser choice, bandwith, and individual makeup, YMMV.


    .sig free for 6 months!

  • ...and it makes a good attempt to split the text display up into regions like a GUI browser would, at least in some cases. That, plus the relatively accurate table rendering and the attempt to show at least some of the colors on a site using the standard text colors, makes Links a surprisingly useful web browser.
    -Rich (OS/2, Linux, BeOS, Mac, NT, Win95, Solaris, FreeBSD, and OS2200 user in Bloomington MN)
  • Quoting from the list of 211 providers viewed by the 67 participants:

    Sonic Net
    South Bend Tribune

    No Slashdot? Aww, come on people. We've got to infiltrate these studies if we want to count. :)
  • Somebody is going to correct this; it may as well be me (a passive non-flaming geek).
    I remember when Linus Torvalds himself first posted his announcement about Linux to Slashdot, in 1991. We were all very excited, reading Slashdot in Netscape on our Minix systems, to hear about the Linux project, and the GNU project which was founded shortly thereafter to build a set of userspace utilities around the Linux kernel.
    Quoting from http://www.gnu.org/ [gnu.org]:
    The GNU Project was launched in 1984 to develop a complete Unix-like operating system which is free software: the GNU system.
  • True, but you can always change the console size. 80x25 is normal, but standard PCs can go up to 80x50.
  • I've been browsing 'bout 6 to 7 hours a day for the last 10 months and I always only use 1 window... Anything else that is opened by sites I close down right away. But then, i only read /. and SciCentral
  • .sig translation:
    success always occurs in private, and failu

    Please post the rest of your .sig, I can't stand the suspense of translating it.

  • Wow! The study is right - my eyes jump straight to the text on that page!
  • Damn 120 character limit...

  • ``... they have an awefully big picture with an awfully small sidebar of text.''

    Right. Even I know how to make the text wrap around an image on a web page.

    Congratulations on one of the least readable sites I've encountered in recent weeks.

    Also... Are 67 individuals enough to draw much of a conclusion? What was the age distribution? I have a feeling that if they managed to find a bunch of people who regularly read newspapers that don't have a ton of photos, say the Wall Street Journal, that could skew their results enough to make the study's result quite questionable. Testing a population that prefers People magazine would, I'm betting, result in a different conclusion.

  • This was actually covered - it talked about people hopping between sites instead of staying on the same site - and if you read carefully enough, it's clear that the hopping is done through multiple browser windows.

    What's interesting is that nobody in the studies pointed out that this is most likely due to sluggish load times. You start something loading, and then flee to something else while it's in process. I do this all the time, more (of course) on slow sites or those with huge amounts of content that load slowly (Slashdot being a good example of this).

    My behaviour, incidentally, is almost exactly like the other user on this thread (opening multiple articles in different windows) except that being in the US, I don't disconnect from my net connection, even when using a modem. This is most likely because I'm in the US with unlimited local calling, while he's in the UK with per-minute charges for use.


  • Sell babies.

    Each baby'll get you enough for like two years of web hosting.
  • Could it be that the author claims Slashdot started up nearly TWO years ago? (Then later talks about 1991, etc etc etc?)
  • Keep in mind, the study focused on internet NEWS readers. I would assume that you can take some of this and apply it to the behavior of the average web-surfer. My guess is that there will be more studies with other types of webpages.

    ...after an exhaustive two year study, The Stanford Pointer Project has concluded that the average /. reader doesn't see the banner nor does he/she notice the various subject-specific icons. Study also concluded that attention of the average reader fixated on stories about Natalie Portman. Interesting note: The average reader experienced difficulties focusing on posts by a user named OOG.

  • Yes, content is king. Content in the sense of *usable information*. But also keep in mind that people love to get things presented in an attractive way. And that also includes graphics.

    Even if the pictures don't have much (or anything) to do with presenting revelant information, the "commercial web" would probably keep them there, because they're expected. Sorta like background noise; if it's too quite, you get distracted.

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose that you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.
  • This is very true.

    There are still a good number of people out there that have slow connections. They will read the text on the page while the graphics load...

    Something to think about, especially with "alt" tags....

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling