Google has published a bit of an insider’s look on how the company conducts eye-tracking studies to evaluate the effectiveness of its search results.
In addition to holding interviews, field studies and live experiments to improve the usability of its products, Google has special hardware and software that tracks test participants’ eyeballs as they scan results for the perfect link.
The official blog post doesn’t detail any groundbreaking discoveries that have been produced by this testing technique. It sounds as though it has mostly helped Google confirm the obvious: that the first few results it returns are indeed usually the most relevant, and its so-called “universal search” effort (where it mixes rich media results like images and video thumbnails among the standard text results) doesn’t distract users too much but has actually proven rather useful.
Perhaps most intriguing is the following video provided by Google that shows how quickly users glance around result pages:
The bigger the dot, the longer the person sat looking at a particular part of the page.
This heatmap-like image, which is named the “golden triangle”, also suggests that people spend a lot more time evaluating the whole results at the top of the page than the ones further down.
For more, see our previous coverage of Google’s usability lab.