In previous research on horizontal attention, we found that, on the web, people disproportionately spend much more viewing time on the left half of the page versus on the right half. Since that article was published in 2010, the web has undergone significant changes, yet this finding holds true.
In our most recent round of eyetracking research, we gathered data from more than 120 participants completing open-ended, web-related tasks. To determine where people direct their eyes most frequently, we looked at the X & Y coordinates from over 130,000 eye fixations and counted how many of these fell in the different areas of the screen.
In our initial study, we used a 1024×768 monitor. For this round, we used a 1920×1080 monitor, which stretched viewing patterns toward the right.
General-Web Viewing Patterns
For the first part of our analysis, we excluded search-engine results pages and looked only at what we call the “general web” (i.e., mainstream websites, such as ecommerce, news, company sites, and government sites). For these pages, we found that, if we were to slice a maximized page down the middle, 80% of the fixations fell on the left half of the screen (even more than our previous finding of 69%). The remaining 20% of fixations were on the right half of the screen.
None of the users we observed used horizontal scrolling (that is, there were no fixations to the right of the screen edge), but many of the rightmost fixations can be attributed to searching for the (vertical) scrollbar.The absence of fixations on content to the right of the screen’s edge is in contrast to our research from 2010 where 1% of fixations were to the right of the initially viewable area on the 1024px-wide monitor. Unlike the bottom fold of the screen, which reduces but does not completely eliminate vertical scrolling, the “right-hand fold” was transformed into a virtually impenetrable barrier by the larger screen sizes.