So, what important information are you hiding in plain sight on your ecommerce website?

I imagine that you’re thinking, “Excuse me? Why would I hide something important on my ecommerce site? Nothing is hidden. It’s all there in plain sight.” And you’re right–but what are your customers missing based on where the information is located on the page?

I’ve been exploring the various resources at Usability.gov and came across an article detailing the results of an eye-tracking study by Jakob Nielsen. Below are  two very interesting tidbits about how the majority of web users scan an online page:

  • When asked to find a specific piece of information on the website, only 14% of users successfully located it in the upper right hand corner of the page, even though the information was shown in a big, red font.
  • What’s more, the use of eye-tracking technology showed that users’ eyes scanned the information in the big, red font in the upper right hand corner of the page, but that the information wasn’t read.

The site in question was the US Census Bureau and the page looked like this:

Ecommerce Web Design: Hidden in Plain Sight

Of course, we readily see the red font showing the population clock, but that’s because we know to look there. Additionally, Nielsen explains in his study that in the smaller image format shown above, the information in red is the only text that can easily be read. This naturally draws our eye to the information as well.

It was in doing more research and finding Nielsen’s actual report that I found something even more important about why 86% of the users in the study skimmed over the information they were supposed to find: “Users tend to ignore heavily formatted areas because they look like advertisements.” (The emphasis at the end of that quote is Nielsen’s emphasis, not mine.)

To restate: Users instinctively ignore the key information they are looking for when that information looks like an advertisement or solicitation.

What does this mean for your ecommerce site? A lot.

How you present information on your website is just as important, if not more important than where you place it on the page.

If you can, avoid placing key information in the upper right hand of your web page design. And if you have to put information there, be certain that it doesn’t look like advertising or solicitation.