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Visual Attention in Newspaper versus TV-Oriented News Websites

William J. Gibbs and Ronan S. Bernas

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 4, Issue 4, May 2009, pp. 147-165

Article Contents


The Most Central Scan Path Sequence

In an effort to examine the influence of homepage design on eye traces, we adopted a method used by Josephson and Holmes (2008) whereby the “… most central sequence has the lowest mean LD from other sequences and therefore may serve as a representative sequence for that group” (p. 398). In other words, for each news site, we identified the individual with the most central scan path based on the lowest LD relative to other scan paths for that site. Figures 2 through 7 represent participants’ 15 second eye movement traces of the most central fixation sequences.

The designs and associated elements (i.e., photographs, text) influenced eye movements as evident by the location, form, and density of traces. A number of traces toward the far-right side of the screen represent participants locating the scrollbar. Overall, the figures show high trace density on text links within the document body suggesting that visual attention was captured by reading or skimming textual information. For the most part, traces conform to text areas and bypass salient elements such as the dominant photograph, headers, and advertisements, which get attention but not to the same extent as text. It is also noteworthy that based on these figures, traces appear more dense on TV homepages than on newspaper homepages. For example, in Figure 2 (CNN), visual attention is concentrated on the link list to the right of the main photograph. The traces on The New York Times as well as the other newspaper sites are more spread out and less concentrated. Distributed throughout the body of the document are headlines that serve as the primary navigation links to the full story. Below the headline is a summary of the story and possibly a byline. On the other hand, the TV homepages present a list of text links that are, for the most part, concentrated in one area. These approaches to homepage layout influenced eye movement, with the text link lists seemingly the primary area of importance.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Eye path trace of most central fixation sequence for CNN

Figure 3

Figure 3. Eye path trace of most central fixation sequence for Fox News

Figure 4

Figure 4. Eye path trace of most central fixation sequence for MSNBC

Figure 5

Figure 5. Eye path trace of most central fixation sequence for NYT

Figure 6

Figure 6. Eye path trace of most central fixation sequence for Post Gazette

Figure 7

Figure 7. Eye path trace of most central fixation sequence for USA Today

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