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What Do People Look At On Websites?

Design is meaningless without consideration for online user behaviour. Build your website with insight into how people will interact with it.

Navigating a website

Intro

What Do People Look At On Websites?

This question should be first and foremost on the mind of any good web designer, but too often, it’s not even a consideration. No matter how beautiful a website is – how creative the imagery, or how sleek the font – none of it matters if the site hasn’t been built with onsite user behaviour in mind.

An understanding of how people interact with a website forms the most basic foundation for web design. So, if it’s a question you’ve never really considered, read on for an overview to get you started.

Author

About the Author

I’m Andrew Newby, the owner and design lead behind Edge Studio. Starting my journey in Sheffield’s digital agencies, I quickly developed a passion for creating websites that not only stand out visually but are also intuitive and engaging.

Now, leading Edge Studio, I focus on bringing these qualities to clients’ websites, using design, SEO and content creation to captivate (and convert) your audience. In this article, I look forward to sharing what I’ve learnt about online user behaviour and how we, as designers, can utilise this knowledge to create websites that improve user experience.

Article author, Edge Studio owner Andrew Newby

Where

Where Do People Look On Websites?

Let’s start from the very beginning – site layout. This is a topic we discuss in most of my articles because the visual hierarchy plays such an essential role in the building of a website. In the Western world, most people read from left to right. It comes as no surprise then, that when looking at websites, most people tend to find their eyes drawn toward the left side of a page more than they do toward the right.

Some studies suggest that the amount of time spent on the left side of the page is as high as 80%. This is well worth considering when organising the layout of your landing page. Keep those key messages and CTAs on the left of your site, or bring it all into the centre of your page. As a designer, I know the temptation can be strong to go against the grain, but when it comes to online user behaviour, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. Stick with what works where it makes sense to do so, and save your creative flair for the areas you can actually make an impact.

The visual hierarchy of website viewing

What

What Are They Looking At?

The next element of your site that you should be sure not to overlook is the quality of your images. As an important visual aspect of your site, images play a key role in conveying the atmosphere and “feel” of your website. Used well, they should give the viewer a sense of credibility, humanity and invoke the emotion you want the visitor to experience, be it excitement, joy or something different.

With this in mind, I recommend avoiding stock images of clearly posed models or poor-quality, low-resolution images. I’d also recommend treading lightly when it comes to AI-generated images. While AI has its place, and in the hands of a good designer can be used to great effect, more often than not I see businesses using them to cut corners and keep costs low. Unless you’re being incredibly cautious with how you use AI image generation, in my experience, it will do more harm than good.

The general wisdom in the industry is for images of people to appear genuine, ideally of your own team, and to be demonstrating positive body language. A few tips for taking photos:

  • Keep your subjects forward-facing
  • Authenticity is better than perfection
  • Take high-resolution images
  • Balance colour and contrast with the rest of your site

Learn more about this topic in How To Use Images & Videos to Enhance Your Website.

Who

Who Are Your Visitors?

Along with thinking about what your visitors will look at when they’re on your site, you should also consider who they are – geographically and demographically.

Are you appealing to a local audience, for example targeting Sheffield, or are you looking at a more regional scale? Is your product or service location-specific, or is your appeal nationwide or even global?

Are your visitors digitally savvy – the internet their home from home? Or are they an older generation who might need a little extra guidance getting from A to B? Knowing who your visitors are is the best way to make sure you’re able to cater to their needs.

Distractions

What Is Distracting Your Visitors?

As important as it is to draw your site’s visitors to your core information, it’s equally important to prevent them from getting lost along the way.

SEO is critical for your website, but all the SEO in the world won’t help if your written content is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Minor oversights in your content may not seem like a big deal in isolation, but they convey carelessness and lack of attention to detail – and what does that say about you to potential customers?

The length of your content can also be distracting for visitors. Too short, and it doesn’t convey all the information it should – but too long, and it will bore visitors, and they’ll leave. Keep your copy concise, to the point, and easy to read. If this isn’t your strong point, delegate it to a professional copywriter. We work along side our writer, Sarah, who is key to creating a usable website. Many web designers can recommend someone in the industry or even bundle the content with your design.

And lastly, consider the links you’re using on your site. We often see websites with external links to Youtube and social media platforms – the ultimate distraction! Don’t give visitors a reason to leave your site. The fewer distractions, the better.

Summary

In summary, although we all have free will, a web designer has a lot of control over what people look at on websites. Designing with online user behaviour in mind should be the goal of anyone tasked with building a website. From where key messages are placed to how images are used to elicit the right emotion, it should all be well considered.

During a design process it can be easy to get carried away and request changes to a design that you feel are right without considering the bigger picture. Remember that if you’re using the right designer you should trust them to make these decisions. Not all design is about making things look nice, although this is integral we feel usability is equally important and apply these strategies to all our design work.

If all this information is a bit much, you don’t have to muddle through alone. Web design looks deceptively simple, but the reality is that behind every great website lies a lot of psychology, research and usually, a web designer with years of experience under their belt. Get in touch today to discuss how we can turn your business into an online presence.

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