"Reaction [beta]"

Five days: HMV.co.uk 12 May 2006

Welcome to day five

Over the course of this week, we've been publishing Eye Tracking heatmaps from five websites. More information about the study can be found in our original announcement.

Day one saw us tackle Dixons, on day two we explored Currys, on day three we examined Amazon and on day four we analayed M&S. Today, in our final installment, we'll be taking a look at HMV...

About HMV

HMV is one of the world's leading retailers of music and video. HMV is an abbreviation of "His Master's Voice" - the name of a painting by British artist Francis Barraud. This painting, depicting Barraud's dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone, was sold to The Gramophone Company in 1899 and subsequently appeared in its publicity materials and eventually on its record labels.

The HMV brand, as used in the retail industry, dates back to 1921 when The Gramophone Company opened its first HMV store on Oxford Street, London. HMV expanded internationally throughout the 1990s and was acquired by HMV Group in 1998 from EMI (EMI formed in 1931 when the Gramophone Company and the Columbia Graphophone Company merged). In recent times, however, the chain has fared less well. Falling sales over the Christmas period last year saw HMV become the target of a takeover by private equity firm Permira.

Website: www.hmv.co.uk

The heatmap

The white line represents the page fold at our 1024 x 768 monitor resolution. Users needed to scroll to view content located beneath.

See a full size version of this heatmap

Our findings

Users focused predominantly on navigation options when asked to explore HMV's homepage, just as they had when asked to explore the other sites we studied. However, unlike Dixons, Currys and M&S, visual attention was divided equally between the main navigation menu tabs and the left-hand navigation menu.

In the main navigation menu most of the attention surrounded the four tabs after "home" - i.e. "albums", "singles", "DVD" and "games" - and tailed-off thereafter. Again, this seems to be evidence of "order effects" (where users pay more attention to items located at the start of a list) and "satisficing" (where users choose the first option they find that appears to satisfy their needs).

In the left-hand navigation menu most of the attention surrounded the first four options in the "albums" section. The "dvd" section also performed well, suggesting that breaking the list of options into smaller groups had a positive effect. It's interesting to note, however, that the "games" section attracted relatively little attention. This is somewhat strange given that the "games" tab in the main navigation menu attracted considerable attention.

We suspect that the poor performance of the "more..." section in the left-hand navigation menu was largely attributable to use of "more..." as a heading. This term provides no descriptive information about the contents of the section and - let's face it - hardly captures the imagination. While we understand that selling books, videos, MP3 players and blank media isn't the primary business focus of HMV, it seems strange to locate them under such a meaningless title.

Given the location of the "charts" section, we perhaps would have expected it to perform poorly. This wasn't the case and it's easy to see why. All of the other section headings are black, so the "charts" section's yellow header really stands out.

The arresting quality of the "charts" section also seems to have a positive subsidiary effect on the "features" section below. Users' attention seemed to bleed over from the former to the latter.

Echoing their behaviour on Dixons' and Currys' homepages, users paid little attention to the logo in the top-left-hand corner. They similarly ignored the "home" tab. During the sessions, we again noticed that most people took a look at the browser title bar and the URL before the homepage had loaded to orientate themselves. We also believe that the homepage's strong visual identity reassured them that they had arrived on HMV's website - few other retail websites make use of a hot-pink-on-black colour palette.

When we reviewed the M&S homepage yesterday, we saw that the visual activity in the main area of the page centred on the models' faces. This phenomenon is also evident on the HMV homepage, with the face of X-Factor 2005 winner, Shayne Ward, attracting a significant proportion of our users' attention. No user clicked the "PRE-ORDER" button however - and who can blame them! ;-)

It is also interesting to note the intensity of the hotspot over the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set in the "This Week's Must Own DVDs" section. We believe it was the unusual shape of the packaging that attracted users' eyes.

Yet again, we see another example of a poorly performing right-hand column. With the exception of the "shopping basket", few users looked at the contents of this area of the page. Only one of our forty users looked at the "Dirty Pretty Things" feature, for example.

Over to you

So that's our take. Five heatmaps in five days. Now, over to you. Do you agree with our findings, or disagree? Perhaps you've noticed something we've missed. Have you found the series interesting? We'd love to hear from you...

...and if you're interested in commissioning an Eye Tracking study of your own site, please don't hesitate to get in touch

Next article: Five days bonus! M&S revisited
Previous article: Five days: MarksAndSpencer.com

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