Catalyst Group in New York recently published some interesting findings from an Eye Tracking and Usability study where they compared two popular “friends list” layouts, a 3-column layout similar to LinkedIN and a 1-column layout similar to Facebook. In the test they compared prototypes of the two types of lists. All all 13 users took part in the test and they completed two different tasks on the pages, one name recognition task where users were asked to find a name and a title recognition task where users were asked to find a “design professional”. Users were eye tracked while completing the tasks and interviewed afterward.
The 3-Column layout was more cumbersome and overwhelming. The users did not adopt a consistent scanning strategy and they had to begin by experimenting how to search before starting the actual task. Users also found that they had lost their place on the page after scrolling and had to backtrack up the page. The information was read either horizontally in rows or vertically up and down the page and many of the names on the list escaped the users’ attention.
Overall, the 1-Column friends list was a much more effective and enjoyable. All users scanned the information vertically and in a similar way and it was not necessary to spend time “figuring out” how to search the page. They also found it easier to focus only on the information relevant to each task.
“Although the 1-Column layout is a simpler design that requires more scrolling, and in general took more time to review, our Eye Tracking study indicates that this is a much more effective layout for accurately accomplishing the key networking goals of scanning a list for people you know or want to meet.”
“When presented with minor variations of the 1-Column layout, participants indicated they would prefer the display of names was paginated, eliminating the need to scroll.”