It’s Tuesday morning and retailers across the world are breathing a collective sigh of relief. Although the holiday shopping season still has nearly 4 weeks to go, the high-stakes, ultra-stressful Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us.

For retailers, the last few days were all about executing on the strategies that have been carefully planned for months. According to a piece in the Washington Post, a common goal this year was to win over a coveted new breed of omnichannel shoppers who “ping-pong from physical stores to laptops to smartphones, and a purchase can come via any of these avenues at any time.”

For most retailers, mobile is their “problem” channel – the one they haven’t perfected yet. That’s bad news, because today’s shoppers rely heavily on their mobile devices. During the holidays last year, approximately one third of all eCommerce purchases were made on a smartphone (source), due to a major spike in mobile traffic – a trend that seems to have continued throughout 2014.

To make matters worse, shoppers are especially fickle when they’re on the mobile device. According to Google, 40% of mobile customers have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience. That’s especially harsh considering that a decent chunk of mobile traffic comes from people who are physically in a store already.

So which of the top retailers seem to have pulled it off?

Today, we’ve looked amongst the biggest online retailers in the US to find the best and worst mobile designs – as rated objectively by the EyeQuant A.I.

EyeQuant is trained with large amounts of data from user studies and eye-tracking research to provide instant, objective insight into how real people are likely to react to certain designs. Screenshots of the designs were captured during Cyber Monday.

The analysis results you’ll see below are combinations of the EyeQuant Perception Map and Clarity Score. The perception map shows which content will be most eye-catching in the first 3 seconds of a user landing on the page (the illuminated areas), while the Clarity Score shows how users would rate the design on a 0-100 scale (0 being extremely cluttered, 100 being essentially a blank page).

The Best


The struggling Chicago-based retailer has made major investments in eCommerce user experience over the past couple of years, and it’s really starting to show. When shoppers arrived on the mobile site on Cyber Monday, they immediately saw a banner prompting them to “view Cyber Monday deals” with no distractions (see attention map). The page is extremely “clean” according to the Visual Clarity ratings, putting up an impressive score of 91. Bonus points for an extremely accessible search bar.



Like Sears, the Japanese electronics giant has had a tough time lately with brick-and-mortar stores. 20 of 31 US retail locations have been closed – or will be closed – before January 1st. The official reasoning is to streamline costs and focus on existing partner relationships with other retailers. Online, however, Sony looks poised for great results this year – at least judging by the mobile experience. The first thing users see is an announcement that Cyber Monday deals are here, and the design puts up an incredible Clarity Score of 92.



The Framingham, MA giant – which traditionally has a cluttered and distraction-filled website, turned in an impressive mobile performance on Cyber Monday. The eye flow on this one is fantastic. Users see the announcement that Black Friday deals are here. Then they’re guided to a specific offer that rocks, and then users are given the opportunity to view more deals. Meanwhile, the clarity score is a respectable 78.


The Not-so-great:


There is no excuse for a top retailer not to have either a responsive website or to redirect users to a dedicated mobile site. But Macy’s, the retail giant founded in 1858, sends users to a scaled-down version of the desktop website. Not only does that make it harder to use, but the first impression suffers a lot. The big problem is the miserable clarity score of 31 – which was the worst score we saw amongst the major retailers. Meanwhile, user attention is initially dominated by 2 competing “sale” messages – both telling you to “hurry up”. Ironically, the part of the page that actually tells you WHY you should hurry up (the 15% discount) doesn’t really stand out that much because of a mediocre colour choice (black on red).


Victoria’s Secret

People coming to your mobile site on Cyber Monday are looking for deals, and they are moving fast. But what does the Victoria’s Secret site do? Immediately direct user attention towards a hero shot that conveys very little. Meanwhile – despite multiple sale offers -the words Cyber Monday aren’t used anywhere, which leaves the user wondering: “are these deals any better today than a normal day”? To top it off, the page puts up a weak clarity score of 48.

Victoria's Secret


Williams-Sonoma suffers from a mediocre clarity score (51), but the biggest problem is that users arrive on the page and are immediately presented with what looks like an enterprise pricing table rather than a great deal on home furniture. The call to action isn’t visible, either.

Williams - Sonoma

The good news is: no matter what happened this year, there’s always room for improvement next year! What do you think of these ratings? Let us know in the comments! Want to try out EyeQuant for yourself? Claim 2 free test credits here.

Prime Advice: How Amazon Could Improve its Prime Landing Page and Boost Subscriptions

As most of you probably know, Amazon offers a premium membership called “Prime”, which allows you to get fast, free shipping on your purchases, as well as other benefits like streaming video and music. If you shop a lot on Amazon, it’s a pretty good deal at just $99/year, which is why many people (including myself) have signed up.

To drive these subscriptions, Amazon has a landing page set up where it offers users the opportunity to sign up for a free trial of Prime service. I decided to run a quick audit of this page and see if there might be some opportunity to improve it. For all the EyeQuant users out there, this is a good example of how you can use EyeQuant on your own sites.

OK, here’s what you’re presented with when you click through to the landing page:


With a page like this, there are really 3 key pieces of information we need to convey to users:

  1. Relevance (what is this about?)
  2. Value Proposition (Why should I care?)
  3. A Call to Action (Where do I go next?)

I like to call this the “3 Ws”, but I’ve also seen it referred to as the Conversion Triangle or Conversion Trinity (shout out to Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg).

The first step to optimizing any landing page is making sure that you actually have all 3 of those present. For the Prime landing page, the 3Ws are present in the header, sub-header, and call-to-action button. So far so good!

But users (especially online shoppers!) are busy. They’re distracted. They have 6 other tabs open. So when they land on the page, we can’t expect (nor should we) that they will invest much/any of their precious time in finding the information they need to convert. That’s why pages that immediately direct a person’s attention to the “good stuff” enjoy dramatically higher conversion rates.

Unfortunately for the Prime team – and even more unfortunate for would-be Prime customers, this landing page falls quite short on this criterion. Here’s an EyeQuant Perception Map of the page. It shows which content people are likely to look at during the first 3 seconds of landing (with 85%-95% accuracy):

httpwwwamazoncomAmazonPrimeOneYearMembershipdpB00DBYBNEE-1 - Perception Map - Engaged Visitor

Users are immediately looking at the imagery rather than the offer. On top of that, the content that people are paying attention to is all about Prime Music, which is a secondary benefit for most prospective Prime customers (correct me if that’s wrong).

Let’s look at how this page could be tweaked to do a better job of conveying key information right away, and converting prospective users to the free trial.

All else equal, people look towards the top left of the page first, so let’s see what happens when we put the important content in that spot.

Looking at the Regions of Interest map in EyeQuant, we can see that by reversing the content positioning between the hero banner and the offer itself, we’ve effectively made the offer, value proposition, and 6x more eye-catching. Yet the busy creative on the right is still hogging up a lot of initial eyeballs.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 15.49.46

This is a big improvement, but a quick look at the Attention Map shows that the key message is still getting lost in the supporting imagery. So we’re not nearly done yet.

ScreenShot20140925at152010png-0 - Attention Map - Engaged Visitor

Bold, high-contrast content is more likely to be seen, so let’s see what happens if we tweak the contrast levels of the offer, benefits and CTA.

Here, I took the gradient background and made it a solid color, using the darker hue, while using a bolder typeface for the headline. Then, I darkened the CTA button to the exact colour we see on the Amazon logo. This one made a big difference. If we look back to the Perception Map, we can tell now that users are seeing the key offer in the headline within 3 seconds of landing.

ScreenShot20140925at175810png-0 - Perception Map - Engaged Visitor

The attention map shows that the imagery is still very strong – and is taking up valuable attention that we’d prefer to direct towards the 3 Ws.

ScreenShot20140925at175810png-0 - Attention Map - Engaged Visitor

Since we’ve got some very strong visual imagery here that’s distracting users from key content, let’s try toning down the imagery a bit.

First, I moved the tablet image to the right side – further away from that prime left-side real estate. Then, I got rid of a lot of the small, floating album covers, which didn’t convey a particularly strong message, but were visually grabbing. Instead, I simply showed one, larger image of the tablet with the Prime interface on the screen. Next, I turned down the contrast levels on the images. From the Attention Map, we can see that this dramatically shifted attention towards the headline area.

ScreenShot20140925at183040png-0 - Attention Map - Engaged Visitor

Ok, so now we’ve got a lot of attention on the headline, and we’ve minimized the distractors in the images, but the sub-header and CTA, which contain important information, aren’t as salient as we’d like.

To make the sub-header and CTA stand out more (which are already well-placed and high-contrast), let’s try creating more whitespace around them.

Here, I moved the “give the gift” and referral links down, and centred the text and button to give the content a bit more breathing room, which tends to help attract eyeballs. Oh – I also changed the colour of the “Over a million songs…” header to a dark grey instead of black, so that it wasn’t so strong. The results were pretty great. We can now look at the Perception Map and observe that user immediately see the header, sub-header, and CTA – fulfilling our “conversion trinity”.

ScreenShot20140925at184812png-0 - Perception Map - Engaged Visitor

There’s still a critical flaw on this page though: according to EyeQuant, people are still likely to consider this page “busy” or cluttered. It’s visual clarity score is a 61/100, which is generally below average for single-product landing pages.

To make the design cleaner, let’s trim down non-critical copy in the description of Prime Music to eliminate that “wall of text” feeling.

This shoots our clarity score up to 72 – effectively an 18% increase in visual clarity. More importantly, it’s now in the top 20% of all web pages in terms of design clarity (benchmarked against the Alexa 5000).

There are still ways to continue improving the clarity score, but without more information on which content is truly mission critical for Prime’s prospective customers, we’re satisfied with our 72.ScreenShot20140925at191527png-0

Let’s look at what we’ve accomplished here: with these relatively simple design changes, we’ve taken a page that was scattered, unfocused, and busy, and turned it into a laser-focused, relatively clean design, as measured objectively by EyeQuant. We even managed to stick with (presumed) brand guidelines.

Of course we don’t know for sure that this will perform better – we do need to verify our work here with a proper A/B test. But if you were a betting person, it would be wise to put your money on the data we’ve just seen!

Does Cleaner Design Improve eCommerce Sales?

Internet Retailer recently released its top 500 guide (note: paywall), which tracks the performance of the largest eCommerce sites in the world.

One of the most interesting parts of the guide is the list of the top 50 fastest growing eTailers. For anyone interested in user experience for eCommerce, these companies are the ones to watch. After all, these are the shops that are successfully taking customers away from their competitors.

But why are customers switching? Surely there are many reasons (conscious and unconscious), but is user experience one of them?

Here at EyeQuant, we were curious to see if there is any measurable connection between UX and revenue growth rates for these fast-growing companies. After all, if we can’t prove that investing in better UX does indeed lead to consumers “voting with their wallet”, then what’s the point?

We decided to investigate.


Quantifying user experience is a difficult task, but we’ve been working on several metrics here at EyeQuant that can help us objectively measure the quality of web designs based on how users will see and perceive them.

One of our most recent creations is the Visual Clarity index. As reported by Wired, it’s an AI that tells you if a design is likely to be perceived as visually clean, or cluttered and busy. It assigns a score between 0-100.

If you were to  show 100 people a pair of designs and ask which one is cleaner, EyeQuant’s predicted winner would match the ‘real’ survey results about 95% of the time.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 17.25.12

Sample analysis: The Levi’s home page scores a 65. The red areas on this clarity map shows which parts of the design are more cluttered.

While visual clarity is only one factor in user experience, it’s an aspect that we can quickly and accurately measure. We decided to see if visual clarity seems to correlate at all with the growth rates of the companies on this list.

In theory, there should be a trade-off between clarity and content. A blank page would have a perfect clarity score (no clutter at all), but it surely wouldn’t create a great user experience. So is there a sweet spot?

To find out, we calculated the clarity metrics from the home page of each website in the top 50. While the home page is not a perfect representation of a website’s overall design clarity, our testing suggests it works well as a proxy. For example, websites that have cleaner home pages generally have cleaner category and product pages.

In the data, we found 3 main insights.

Insight #1: Amongst top-performing eTailers, sites with cleaner designs have higher growth rates.

growing (1)There is a correlation (r=0.27) between clarity and sales growth rates. Internet Retailer only includes 50 companies in this particular list so the data set is smaller than ideal, but this is very much an indicative result, as the p-value (0.06) is hovering around conventional levels of significance.

Clearly, there are plenty of other factors at work here, but the modest correlation implies that clarity is certainly one of them.

This supports a hypothesis that our team at EyeQuant has held for a while: clean, simple design is winning in eCommerce. We’ve seen lots of anecdotal evidence from our customers using the clarity score as a metric to improve conversion rates, but this is the first data we’ve seen that hints at a larger-scale relationship between clarity and cash.

Consider this: amongst the top 10 fastest growing eTailers in the US, the average Clarity Score (home page) was 69.1, which is about 16.4% higher than the list average of 59.36.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 15.10.52

Uniqlo, the fastest growing eTailer in the United States, has embraced clean design. This home page scored an 87 in visual clarity.

By comparison, the bottom 10 on the list (#41-50)  had an average score of 52.6. Keep in mind that these are still highly successful companies, so it came as no surprise that even the bottom 10 had (on average) a 9.5% higher score than the average of all sites in the Alexa 5000 (48.0).

Insight #2: None of the top 25, and only 2 of the top-50 fastest growing companies had a higher score than 90.

This supports the hypothesis that having an extremely high clarity score doesn’t actually improve performance. This makes sense intuitively, as having a score in the mid-to-high 90s requires you to have very little content on the page.That means that you might be withholding information that is important to your customers, which is unpleasant. This is a cautionary tale for minimalist designers. Cleaner isn’t always better if it means removing content that is critical to your users’ buying decisions.

Insight #3: The importance of design clarity seems to vary depending on your customer base and your brand.

The worst score of any site that we looked at was, which is a key property owned by eCommerce Outdoors, the 50th fastest growing eTailer in the IR 500.

TackleDirect scored a 7.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 15.13.27

This home page from TackleDirect had the lowest score of all 50 designs that we considered.

Given the data, we’ve just seen, you’d think that such a cluttered, chaotic-looking website has absolutely no place on the top-50 list, and should in fact be struggling to stay in business.

Instead, they’re doing quite well for themselves.

But who buys fishing tackle? Typically it’s older men, who grew up consuming print advertising, where marketers traditionally aim to use up every single inch they’ve paid for.

It might be the case that improving the visual clarity of would improve conversion and increase sales, but this data suggests that maybe it’s not that critical for the specific type of person who buys on this website.

Also consider 2 European businesses that are enormously successful despite extremely cluttered websites: and Both of these companies have essentially made chaotic design a part of their brand identity.

Key Takeaways

1. For most eTailers, improving the visual clarity of your design today would increase sales (as long as you beat your competitors to it).

2. Don’t go overboard. As always, there are diminishing returns at high levels of visual clarity, and there comes a point where improving this metric would mean removing important content.

3. As always, there are exceptions to the rule. No matter what the averages say, there will always be a or a that breaks the rules and profits from it.

Want to see the clarity score for your own design? Try EyeQuant once for free here.

Why The New Google Search Ads Design Is a Subtle Work of Genius

It’s official – Google has rolled out a major redesign of their search results and search ads. The company line, as outlined by Jon Wiley – Google’s lead designer for search – is that the new design improves “readability and creates an overall cleaner look“, while the redesign of the ads is “making the multi-device experience more consistent.

Google’s desktop ads now do match the design of their mobile versions and achieving multi-device consistency certainly is a great reason. We’d like to take a data-informed guess on what other good reasons Google might have had for this major revamp of their most important interface. 

Readers of this blog will know that our mission is to teach computers to see designs like humans do – using neuroscience and machine learning. In this article we’ll make use of our EyeQuant technology to better understand how Google’s new ad design affects viewers, and thereby, clicks.

First things first, some of our assumptions for the analysis:

1. It’s unlikely for Google to roll out a relatively major design change without having tested its effect on AdWords CTR (i. e. Google’s main source of revenue) first. It’s pretty safe to assume that the new design performs at least as well (and most likely better) in terms of CTR than the old one.

2. Google is still commited to its ‘Don’t Be Evil’ motto, which in particular affects any conflicts of interest in serving their two most important stakeholders: search users and advertising customers.

Now, as the headline gives it away, we do believe that the redesign is a subtle work of design genius. Here’s why.

Google’s new Ads now very much ‘blend in’ with the organic results, all while attracting MORE attention, and all without being clearly evil. 

Yep, Google somehow squared the circle here. When designing ads, one is usually torn between:

  • aligning the ad’s design to the content in order to battle banner blindness and drive, ahem, involuntary clicks
  • making the ads stick out visually to attract involuntary eye-movements (the most extreme measure being the use of motion).

The first strategy usually implies a sacrifice of direct ad visibility and its ‘pop out’ effect, and worse, moral principles.

Yet, Google’s new ad design manages to achieve the following (besides its officially announced goals):

1. It does clearly label the ads as such – one could even argue that the labeling is clearer than before, as now every ad is explicitly labeled. Not evil. 

2. At the same time it makes the ads blend in much more with the organic results. Ethically, this is a bit of a tricky move, in particular since they had banned a similar type of design explicitly from being used by AdSense publishers. But hey – every ad is labelled as such. 

google search ads redesign

3. The best part? The new layout attracts MORE design-driven attention to the ads than the old one did. 

We ran EyeQuant tests on both the old (~Q1 2013) and new SERP layout to see in which version the upper ad unit would generate more attention – solely based on its design and common viewing behaviours and patterns. EyeQuant results are 90% equivalent of what an empirical study with >25 subjects would provide. The following heatmaps of both the old and new ad units design show the respective probability of an area to be fixated in the first few seconds of exposure – the top 3 ads are marked up in pink:

eyequant eye-tracking google redesign

As it stands, the results show that the new design generates significantly more attention for the top 3 ads than before – especially for the desirable (and expensive) #1 ad. The attentional pull from the organic search results remains unchanged.

It probably goes without saying WHY all of this is good for Google.

But HOW did they do it? There are several factors involved, and we can reverse-engineer them with a bit of knowledge on how human visual attention works:

  • They increased the font size, which typically drives more attention (but not always and only to a certain extent!)
  • The luminance contrast between text and white background is now higher (blue on white) than it used to be in the old version (blue on AdWords skin tone) – luminance contrast is one of the most basic and most powerful drivers of visual attention.
  • The yellow “Ad” logo provides additional color contrast without being overtly aggressive (low luminance contrast between yellow and white), and it does so in every single ad! 

In conclusion, this is a supremely clever, subtle redesign and there’s lots of reasons to believe that it will effectively drive eye-balls, clicks and ad revenue. 

Full disclosure: While several Google teams are using EyeQuant as customers, EyeQuant was not involved in any part of the redesign process.

And here is our own ad: you can try EyeQuant for free on your own designs – all it takes is an email, a URL and 7 seconds of your time. Test it out now!

If you’d like to get a more detailed look into how you can use design to influence visual attention in a systematic and predictable way, check out our quick 8 minute introduction right here:

The 3 Most Surprising Insights From a 200 Website Eye-Tracking Study

eye-tracking website mythsAt EyeQuant, we do a lot of eye-tracking as part of our mission to teach computers to see the web like humans do. The main purpose of our studies is to find the statistical patterns that power our attention models (which you can use to instantly test your websites!) Today, we’re sharing 3 of the most surprising insights we found. 

A lot of you have asked us about general rules of thumb around what drives (and doesn’t drive) attention – in this post you’ll learn why rules of thumb are difficult to establish and how a lot of the common ideas we have about human attention are more complicated than they seem. In fact, what you’re about to read is going to be rather surprising and we’re hoping to dispel some common myths about attention and web design with data. 🙂

METHOD: We’re looking at data from one of our recent eye-tracking studies with 46 subjects who were purchasing products on 200 AdWords eCommerce pages. We recorded 261,150 fixations in total and users we looking at each webpage for 15 sec (+/- 6 sec) on average. The study was conducted in the Neurobiopsychology Lab at the University of Osnabrueck, Germany.

DISCLAIMER: Since the purpose of this study was to further expand EyeQuant’s predictive capacities, we’re also providing EyeQuant’s results for comparison next to the empirical data – please note that these predictions are based on a new EyeQuant model that’s currently in early testing, but are already quite close to the real thing (currently this model provides over 75% predictive accuracy (AUC, warning: math), whereas our standard model achieves over 90%).

Myth #1: “Faces always & instantly draw attention.”

This is probably one of the most universal design assumptions about human attention you’ll find on the internet: “as humans, we’re naturally wired to always seek out and look at at any available faces first.”

Roughly correct – except for when it isn’t. The truth is that as humans we do really like faces. We’ll look at them sometimes. We probably even have a dedicated brain area involved in processing facesHoweverwe look at them much less often than you would typically believe. 

The data (click images to open a large version in a new tab):


Example: a Levis landing page. Left:  Eye-Tracking heatmap of users visiting a Levi’s landing page – users are almost completely ignoring the faces. EyeQuant’s prediction on the right puts a bit more emphasis on the logo than the empirical data, but the big winner on this one is the clearly the headline copy, not the faces. 


Example: a hotel search website, featuring an incredibly happy couple with clearly visible faces. Yet users only seem to care about the search box and the call to action in the center. EyeQuant’s new model provides a very similar result but gets a bit distracted by the wooden texture.

Not convinced? Below you’ll find a lot more examples – from beautifully designed eCommerce shop to web 1.0 wall-of-text. We’re not saying faces don’t attract attention at all and are never looked at. Our data just shows that faces aren’t the powerful attention-grabbers as one usually thinks they are. 

eye-tracking faces
What about guiding user attention through faces? 

This is another popular assumption which seems to make a lot of sense: we’re social beings and user gaze follows the gaze of faces on a website. Again, that’s true, except for when it isn’t:

eyequant vs eye-tracking validation

Example: A Hilton Hotel landing page. Users go straight for the search form and check the offers below, but aren’t paying too much attention to the woman or the headline she’s staring at.

What’s going on here? Our careful, explorative hypothesis is this: looking at a face does provide a sort of emotional buzz, so we may remember looking at them more than we do remember looking at other things. This might lead to wrong conclusions about general viewing behaviour.

Watercooler conclusion: “Faces are emotionally powerful, but they don’t always attract as much attention as we think they do.”

Myth #2: Large text instantly draws a lot of attention.

“Large text is a great way to attract user attention” is another rather popular idea about how attention works online.
However, our data shows that it usually doesn’t work. In a lot of cases big fonts even seem to have a negative effect on attracting attention:

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 19.23.52

Example: English Proof Read landing page: Big typography doesn’t work nearly as well as you think it would. The winner on this one are the three descriptive areas below.

eyequant eye-tracking

Example: Canadian Railways. Users had the task to purchase a rail ticket deal. And promptly ignored the advertised one which is USING AMAZINGLY BIG FONTS. Note how this result includes another example for how  gaze doesn’t always guide attention (see Myth #1)

What’s going on here? Our careful, explorative hypothesis is this: there may be an element of “banner blindness” involved. At the same, extremely large letters might be less readable for the human eye as well.

Watercooler conclusion: “Big typography is visually loud, but not at all a safe way to grab user attention. We need to look into other ways as well.”

Myth #3: “The magical word ‘FREE’ always pops out.”

It’s true: economically, nothing beats ‘FREE’. But does this also mean that the word pops out to users immediately when they’re visitig a page? Our data says otherwise.

eyequant vs eye-tracking

EyeQuant validation eye-tracking

Note how EyeQuant’s automatic prediction (on the left) does pick up a little bit on the copy that contains “free”, whereas users in the empirical study on the right completely ignored it. Both study and prediction place almost all the attention on the product description and the model. 

Watercooler conclusion: “‘Free is a powerful semantical tool. We shouldn’t rely on it as our main attention grabber though!”

Conclusions: don’t rely on rules of thumb. Testing always beats guessing.

Rules of thumb are fun. They’re simple. And the more complex the thing is they’re trying to explain the more appealing they become. Alas, that’s also where they often fail – and visual attention is a rather complex, extremely context-driven system that cannot be captured in a set of simple rules.

What we’re doing at EyeQuant is to combine large amounts of data like the study above in lightning-fast computer models. As you’ve seen, our predictions come close to what you’d get from a real study, so if you’re curious to get results for your own website, just test it for free in our web app.

If you found this article interesting, you should talk to us on Twitter!


When You Want to Convert, Less is More

When I’m chatting with clients, partners, and prospects, I find myself talking a lot about the idea of “visual clutter”. My colleague Bitsy has written extensively on the topic of “attention-driven design”, but I wanted to add my take on the issue.

This morning I had a call with an EyeQuant user who’s starting a new conversion optimization agency in the UK. In his past life he was a SEO expert, so today he was analyzing some of his SEO clients’ websites with EyeQuant to spot some opportunities for improvement.

When we looked at the Perception Map for one particular website, the 3 most important pieces of content were seen right away. At first glance, EyeQuant was suggesting this was a pretty good page.

Not so fast, I said. Looking at the Attention map, we could see that there was an orange-yellow haze over many parts of the page. Visually, user attention was scattered across the page. The page was simply too busy.

Perception and Attention Map Examples

“Visual Clutter” annoys users. Time and time again, we see that focused pages outperform crowded screens.

Here’s my favourite (extreme) example. No disrespect to the folks at Cruise, but this is what their landing page looks like:

Cruise Homepage

You’re probably thinking “wow that’s busy”. EyeQuant agrees. Check out the Attention Map for this same page:

Cruise Attention Map

There is so much content competing for attention on this page, that users are almost surely overwhelmed.

And yet, when a website isn’t converting, many people rush add content. More benefits listed. More special offers. More options. More testimonials. It’s a natural reaction: “people aren’t convinced yet? Well what if I also told them that ……..”

So here’s my challenge to you: the next time you want to test one of your pages (which you should be doing right now), don’t change elements and don’t add new ones. Pick 3 of the less-important “things” on the page and delete them. That’s your test.

Here’s how I suggest you do it:

  1. Look at your page, think about which 3 things are most important. Usually that’s the 3 W’s: what is this page about, why should a user care, and where are they supposed to go next? If you can’t narrow this down to 3, you can cheat and pick 5 things. Not more.

  2. Go to and analyze the page. If you haven’t used EyeQuant before, your first test is free and your results will be ready in seconds.

  3. Look at the “Attention Map” – that’s the one that looks like a “heat” map. Excluding your 3-5 key content pieces, anything that has some red/orange/yellow overlay on it is a great candidate for deletion. Remember, you have to delete 3 things!

  4. If your page now looks ridiculous, make any small layout tweaks that might be necessary. Try not to do anything radical though.

  1. Run A/B test.

Did it work? If you try this, I’d love to hear from you. In fact, if someone has interesting results that we can share on the blog, I’ll hook you up with another 10 EyeQuant analyses! Just shoot me an email at or tweet me at @kurtiswmorrison.

Designers & Growth Hackers: Show Your Process

Show me, don’t tell me: visually communicating your process eases tensions across departments, and will make your design meeting a hell of a lot easier.

At Media Evolution’s The Conference last week in Malmo, EyeQuant’s co-founder Fabian Stelzer spoke about the war between data and creativity that so many of us feel in the marketing world, and offered a few concrete tools to make peace between these two perennially opposing sides.

Most of the way through the talk, he made mention of a simple yet universal way of bridging the conversion optimization language gap:

Show your process.

As opposed to an analytics expert slamming a 42 page market report on the conference table, or as opposed to a designer shrugging their shoulders and saying, “just trust me, I’m a creative”, showing how you’ve worked through a problem is crucial to finding understanding between teams. In this way, a universal, visual language is formed.

In this post, we’ll take a look at 5 key ways to visually explain your process, find common ground between different departments, and work through your web optimization process more efficiently.

Here we go…

A macroscope for Big Data

Back in 1979, Joël de Rosnay began speaking about a crazy idea called the “macroscope”. If microscopes are for observing the infinitely small and telescopes are for observing the infinitely great, thought de Rosnay, then what kind of instrument could we use to observe the infinitely complex? For de Rosnay, this was the macroscope: a global, holistic view of the world around us – one that finds connections through infinite detail.

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With a global view of a problem (like a bird’s eye view from space), wouldn’t we then be able to see the best paths to take to solve our problems?

This, of course, is the rhetoric that has played through the minds of everyone who’s ever uttered the words, “big data”: in a complex world, we need tools to help us cut through the brush and see the light at the end of the problem: not just numbers, but connections.

We often forget to take into account a macroscopic view of the various problems that arise when it comes to web optimization. As a result, we get caught up in details, start fidgeting with pixels, and forgetting that, by zooming out of the minutiae, there’s always a big picture.

Create a Mental Image of Your Strategy

Chris Spooner made this great list for Line25 about design agency websites that do a good job of visually describing their research and design process. His examples vary from venn diagrams to squiggles, but the end result is clear: visual descriptions of complex strategy provide a mental image of a problem and its solution, putting everyone at ease by graphically describing what a process entails, why a certain part of the process is important, and most importantly, and by giving a macroscopic view of what the designer will do to solve their client’s problems.

Bonus: a global mental picture of your research and design process can help to justify aspects of your budget that might otherwise get cut out.

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Visualize your data

When we first set out to create EyeQuant in 2009, we had a hunch that our potential customers – e-commerce companies and digital agencies – were feeling the tension between data-driven and creative design.

Designers already had the experience to know what might work, but increasingly we found that they would need to back up their findings with data – in a way that everyone (including themselves) would understand. After all, marketing and advertising play in a far bigger playground these days, and intuition alone doesn’t cut it.

Crucial to ending the war between data and creativity is learning how to blend the two together. What we needed are tools and strategies to visualize data, and vice versa: accurate, intuitive, yet complex enough tools to grip the big picture – and all the little ones that surround it.

In the world of data visualization, Moritz Stefaner, who works with everyone from FIFA to Skype, is one of the great minds. In this lecture, Moritz makes an astounding point about marrying information with design – and leaves clues to everyone from growth hackers to designers on how to work with and show data and process:

“good visualizations show you the data, great visualizations show you the patterns of the data . . . good visualizations answer questions, but great visualization generate new questions . . . good visualizations tell a story, but great visualizations tell a thousand stories”.

Share your prototypes

There is a persistent misconception outside the design world that creatives tend to pull ideas out of thin air a couple minutes before a presentation. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth, but if this isn’t shown, then nobody will be the wiser. From an initial sketch on a napkin to a full deconstruction and reconstruction of a competitor’s web page, showing visual examples of each iteration of your design process provides transparency, and proves that you’re thoroughly working through problems.

A fantastic resource for keeping track and sharing each step of your design is LayerVault. LayerVault is a beautifully designed software that saves and catalogues every single revision you make, and let’s you decide which iterations to show to colleagues. What makes this app really special is the ability to return to a step you’d written off a day ago that, the next day, turns out to be the solution (without pressing command_z a thousand times).

Show your mistakes (and the tools you used to solve them)

We know, we know, there is a certain level of ego that needs to be upheld during design meetings in order to maintain a modicum of authority. As the old saying goes, though, “the truest characters of ignorance are vanity and pride and arrogance.” Speaking about your mistakes (and better yet, showing them) promotes an environment of empathy, of teamwork, and of humility. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, so let’s ‘fess up to them and learn from them.

Of course, making informed iterations during the design process can be difficult; testing a re-design or a new web page pre-launch is next to impossible, and going on market or design research alone leads to many unknowns.

  • Usability Hub is a crowd-sourced app that allows you to test several aspects of your design – first impressions, click engagement, and navigability – through quick user surveys. Usability Hub provides easy-to-read reports, word clouds, and test answers that give invaluable pre-launch insight into what you’re doing, and why.

  • Then there’s us, EyeQuant (we know, we know, self promotion…but indulge our vanity for a few seconds, we’re just really excited about what we do). Our idea is simple: At any stage of the design process, a screenshot can be fed into EyeQuant’s online app, and within seconds three visualizations of user attention will appear. We’re the only predictive eye-tracking software on the market with a strong neuroscience background, which is why we can safely say that our technology is over 90% accurate in comparison to a traditional eye-tracking study.  Oh yeah, we have a patent too. Here’s how it what it looks like when we did an analysis of ING’s website.

Come together, right now

Showing your iterations, showing how you tested them, and then showing what went right and what went wrong is a sure-fire way to impress upon your boss, your team, and your clients that you know what you’re doing. Laying out a clear roadmap not only instills trust in the others at the meeting, it also lets designers work with far more daring ideas. Just look at Google.

Better yet, it works both ways:

  • As a designer, showing your process proves to clients and colleagues that you’re not afraid to test your intuition and to work with tools to make this happen.

  • As an analytics expert, learning to work with information visually (and creatively) shows everyone else that data is not a cold clump of steely percentages.

During his talk at The Conference, Fabian suggested that we need tools that provide “creative data” – tools that are fast, communicative, objective, and not all too final. This last point is crucial: both creative and growth hackers need to come to terms with the limits of their own domain, and this is where they can come together.