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December 21 2011

05:13

New Poynter eye-tracking study focuses on tablet design and user experience

Tablets have been around for a while, it's time we finally learn how people use them.

Well, SND STL was amazing and is finally in the books. After a little recovery and catch-up-on-reading time, I’ve found my next side project: The Poynter Institute’s new eye-tracking study, focused on tablet design and user experiences.

I remember when the previous eyetracking studies were released it was kind of like this kid on Christmas morning. I’ve regularly referred to them and re-read them throughout my career and now to be involved in the project now is amazingly humbling and exciting. The group involved in this round of research is like my fantasy journalism design team: Sara Quinn, Dr. Mario Garcia, Jeremy Gilbert, David Stanton, Rick Edmonds, Regina McCombs, Roger Black, Rusty Coats, Andrew DeVigal, Jeff Sonderman, Jennifer George-Palilonis, Michael Holmes, Damon Kiesow, Miranda Mulligan, Tor Bøe-Lillegraven, Nora Paul, Robin Sloan, and Matt Thompson.

Our focus this time around, tablets, are an interesting beast because they seem to marry dynamic and interactive content of the web with the portability and “lean back” nature of print or even TV experiences. Often lumped in with mobile devices, tablets are similar, but very unique in many ways. Mobile is always with you and very utility, speed-driven; tablets tend to be portable within the house and workplace, and early research shows that people tend to consume more content and for longer periods on them than either mobile or the web.

We’re going to look at design challenges such as which view do people people prefer to consume content in most frequently – portrait or landscape.  Even in those two options, I suspect the behaviors from users on an 10-inch, letter-box shaped device like the iPad may differ greatly from those on a 7″ tablet, like the Kindle Fire. Or the type of content they’re consuming will likely also change the results, from my personal anecdotal experience (and what I’ve observed in others), I tend to read text more frequently in portrait mode and video in landscape no matter what device. But that’s just anecdotal.

There’s lots to learn and this research will offer ‘more than a hunch’ solutions to help us all improve our products. Specifically, we’ll focus on some of these issues and questions, which Sara spelled out in her original announcement post:

  • Tools and tasks: How intuitive can tablet navigation be and how long does it take to successfully complete a task?
  • Satisfaction: How happy are users with an overall experience and how does that impact their perception of the credibility of the source?
  • Comprehension and retention: Which forms help people to understand and remember what they have seen or read?
  • Business and revenue: What strategies might work for news organizations? For advertisers? For consumers? How might editors set up a newsroom to create content for a tablet product?

How you can help right now

  • Your questions - Share your thoughts, comments and suggestions on the Poynter Eye-Tracking research page on Facebook and follow along there to learn more about what we’re learning.
  • Funding – The Knight Foundation and CCI Europe is helping kick in money, but the more funding, the more extensive research we can do. Please contact Sara about this at: squinn [at] poynter.org.

 

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