Jakob Nielsen is reading Poynters studies on eye-tracking on websites. The study is from 2000 but still pretty valuable as tabbed browsing where even introduced in Internet Explorer 7 :
“Users in the Poynter study frequently alternated between multiple sites:
- they would read something in one window
- then switch to another window and visit another site
- and then return to the first window and read some more on the first site; possibly to turn to the second window again later in the session
The lesson for site designers is that users are not focused on any single site. There is not even such a thing as “a visit” to a site: even while the user is “visiting” your site, he or she is also checking out the competition. Truly, the Web as a whole forms the user experience.
Site design must accommodate people who leave and return frequently:
- help users reorient themselves
- plain and simple headlines immediately tell users what each page is about
- simple page titles that start with a salient keyword help users pick out pages from the minimized tiles in the Windows task bar
- do not assume users can remember their entire browsing session:
- provide breadcrumbs and other location tools
- do not change the standard link colors – doing so makes it harder to recognize what pages the user has already seen
- use standard terminology to minimize the need for users to switch context and remember what you call things
- during user testing, interrupt the users for a few minutes if they don’t leave your site on their own (in order to test their ability to return to the site)”
There is a newer study from 2006 on eye-tracking as well, also from “the guru” Jakob Nielsen.