Virgin on successful 28 Apr 2006
Since we released our eye tracking demo video last month, we've been inundated with emails about Virgin Megastores' "DVDs from £4.99" banner. Most people can't believe that a banner of that size, positioned above the fold and placed slap bang in the middle of the page, could be overlooked by users. Yet it happened (We were there! Honest!).
Several theories have been put forward as to why this element was ignored, yet none provides the definitive explanation. Perhaps the red didn't contrast enough with the website's grey background colours? Perhaps users were distracted by other page elements, like the tabbed navigation at the top of the page? Perhaps, this was just another example of "banner blindness" - the usability theory that states that users will avoid anything that looks, sounds or smells like an ad?
We have to admit, we were perplexed too. We've seen page elements ignored many times before, but none that were so seemingly obvious. So when we saw that Virgin had updated its homepage with a green "3 for £20" banner, we decided to run another eye tracking study.
As you can see from the results above, the green banner outperforms the old banner - attracting far more attention. So, as the rest of the page remains largely unchanged, it seems that many of our theories regarding the original red banner's invisibility were incorrect (or at least, less important than we had thought). The only theory that still holds weight is that pertaining to colour usage - green certainly does seem more vivid in the new design.
A cautionary note however, further analysis of the study data reveals that the green banner was seen by less than 25% of users - so it looks like there's more work to be done.
(It's also interesting to note how the green banner has seemingly drawn attention away from the main tabbed navigation menu at the top of the page, and that focus has shifted towards the search feature. Just goes to show that even the simplest of design tweaks, can change our experience of a page significantly.)
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