Netway Interface Comfort Zone ™

The analysis of eye tracking data gathered during hundreds of missions has allowed us to determine a key behaviour to be taken into account when designing a site: the top zone of an interface is very little noticed and/or only later on during the visit of the website.

This week, I would like to explain the reasons behind this behaviour.

By analyzing the behaviour of thousands of users during missions I worked on, I have observed that a very large majority of users sit similarly behind their computer screen.

Netway Interface Comfort Zone - Portable computer

That’s why I decided to analyze 100 pictures of people sitting naturally behind their screen. This has revealed an extraordinary tendency: the head is inclined at 20 degrees in relation to the body.

The most natural position for our eyes is on average at 25% of the height of the screen (counting from the top of the screen).

Everything placed above this axis will demand a muscular eye effort. And everything below this point will be more comfortable to look at.

Netway Interface Comfort Zone - Desktop

This comfortable zone is called the Netway Interface Comfort Zone.

As we know, 95% of our behaviour is non-conscious. Our brain will choose the places that are the less tiresome for our eyes to look at, which is an activity that goes beyond the conscious choices we make when surfing on a website.

This non-conscious behaviour leads users to start their visit of a website in the Netway Interface Comfort Zone. The zones outside this area will be less visited. And if they are visited, it will be done at a later stage during the visit.

Coupled with the physiological efforts necessary to lead our eyes into the Discomfort Zone, the intensive use of bannering in this zone has created a behaviour of so-called ocular avoidance.

The Netway Interface Comfort Zone is only one of many elements we have discovered during our research, influencing the choices to be made when designing an interface.

The brain of the user will look outside the Comfort Zone when he notices in his peripheral vision an element that could be useful to complete the task at hand.

An expert will take this into account when building an interface.

Let’s have a look at two examples that demonstrate the meaningfulness of the Netway Interface Comfort Zone on a page design.

Netway Interface Comfort Zone - Google

Google: the first link in the result list appears in the Discomfort Zone. The visibility of the first elements could most probably be improved if they were put in the Netway Interface Comfort Zone. The sponsored links in the right column however, are placed correctly. 

Netway Interface Comfort Zone - Orange

Orange: increase the height of the header ‘hello, welcome…’ so the entire advertisement block can be put inside the Netway Interface Comfort Zone. 

Of course, it goes without saying that my blog is perfectly calibrated within the Netway Interface Comfort Zone. Have a nice week!

The name “Netway Interface Comfort Zone” and the concept behind the name is protected by the iDEPOT002749.

2 Comments

  • Hi Marc,

    While I’m not in a position to argue with your science I take issue with your example screenshots. The shots you use look basically square (including browser chrome) whereas I don’t think this is the case for most people (a more common ratio of 4:3 landscape).

    Visualising this 20% Discomfort Zone on a landscape window makes the findings a *lot* different (and I’d suggest would nullify your examples).

    There is, of course, debate over how many users browse full screen…

  • I don’t think he used a square monitor to do the experiments…

    What I would find interesting is to get information about how the switch to 16:9 displays is going to affect website usability. I don’t have one so I don’t know but I can imagine people put two windows next to each other instead of one full screen webpage.

    And wat about the increased resolution. Because I’m use to seeing the resolutions used by professionals I’ve noticed that people still keep upping their resolution, but are not increasing the size of icons and text.

    Based on Fitt’s law, that would increase the time to hit a target.

    However when they see my screen at 1024×768 or 1280xWhatever they always ask what is wrong with me. :-)

    How do you think greater screens and resolutions affect websites. On a fullHD screen of the same size you could fit almost 4 screens at the same size and resolution as before on a 1024×768.

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