There’s an interesting post today on the Official Google Blog that gives a glimpse inside the company’s usability and eye-tracking studies — tests that help Google determine what their search results pages should look like.
The image above, for example, shows how users interact with a standard results page with 10 links. The deeper colors up top, Google says, show that most people found what they were looking for in the first two results on the page.
No surprise there, but in May, 2007, when Google introduced Universal Search to its interface, marketers began to wonder how the addition of videos, image thumbnails, and other visual cues would affect searcher behavior. Says Google:
We ran a series of eye-tracking studies where we compared how users scan the search results pages with and without thumbnail images. Our studies showed that the thumbnails did not strongly affect the order of scanning the results and seemed to make it easier for the participants to find the result they wanted.
The thumbnail image seemed to make results with thumbnails easy to notice when the users wanted them … and the thumbnails also seemed to make it easy for people to skip over the results with thumbnails when those results were not relevant to their search.
(There’s an image in Google’s blog post that goes along with that explanation.)
Overall, it’s not the most groundbreaking or in-depth thing you’ll read, but it does provide an interesting peek into how Google tests its search results pages and how we interact with them.