"Reaction [beta]"

Five days bonus! M&S revisited 17 May 2006

Yesterday, Mark posted the following comment about our Marks & Spencer study:

"I love these sorts of studies, however, the fact that you aren't focusing on each website's target audience as your test audience, to me, means that the study can only talk in general design terms, and even then it's not that useful. For example, as a male, if I go to Marks and Spencer's' homepage and see a feature promo for lingerie then I'm probably going to look immediately at the navigation to see if anything at all in the site is likely to be relevant to me. Yet your conclusion is that since people didn't spend much time looking at the feature promo then Marks & Spencer are wasting (or using inefficiently) screenspace. Now that has to be a spurious conclusion. However, if you studied only women in the demographic being targeted by the feature promo then you would have more meaningful results..."

...A really interesting comment. However, we should point out that M&S targets both men and women, so I'm not sure that we were incorrect to test their homepage with a mixed user group. (Although it would be true to say that M&S's clothing arm caters more towards women, and that their homepage was women-focused at the time we tested it).

We should also say that we didn't conclude that "since people didn't spend much time looking at the feature promo then Marks & Spencer are wasting (or using inefficiently) screenspace". What we actually said was:

"What's striking from the heatmap is that almost all visual attention centres on the page header (containing the main navigation) and the left-hand menu. Great if M&S wants to connect users with products as quickly as possible, but not so great if they want them to engage with the features in the page's main area. It's worth noting that only one of our forty users actually clicked an item in the main body of the page..."

...Anyway, enough excuses. It just so happened that we were carrying out some further analysis on the five days eye tracking data when Mark posted his comment, so we thought we'd take a closer look at the issue of gender. Below are three heatmaps - the first showing the visual activity of only the women that participated in our study, the second showing the visual activity of only the men, and the third showing the combined view for both women and men.

Women only

See a full size version of the "Women only" heatmap

Men only

See a full size version of the "Men only" heatmap

The original heatmap (Men and Women combined view)

See a full size version of the "Combined" heatmap

As you can see, these findings are somewhat counterintuitive. The women were extremely focused on the navigation menus and rarely looked at the main body of the page. However, while the men were also predominantly navigation-focused, they were a lot more willing to venture into the main body of the page - even though the majority of the feature located therein targeted women!

It is often said that men are more visually-orientated than women - perhaps this adage goes some way towards explaining these results.

Next article: Shades of accessibility
Previous article: Five days: HMV.co.uk

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