Some of the intricate research that has been done in regard to Internet marketing is simply fascinating. A recent post at the Google Blog outlines some of the psychology behind where persons eyes go on a page after an online search is performed.
Personally I found one particular portion of the study quite fascinating. The Google team of search specialists were a bit concerned that some of the thumbnail images that appear in online search would be distracting from the actual content that individuals would be looking for. But, much to their suprise, the graphical images acted as a help, rather than a hindrance for obtaining the appropriate information. The takeaway for digital signage content creationists: a picture can say a thousand words. Like most men, I am a terrible multi-tasker and a very visual creature. What you can show me always makes more sense than what you can tell me or have me read. If I could get my information from a digital display, through pictures and videos then I would be as happy as a hog in the sunshine. But, alas, I must read.
I can’t remember where the quote comes from, but I remember hearing the statement, “bring two things together that were previously unrelated and that is where great ideas emerge.” This may not be a great blanket statement for life (I’m sure peanut butter does not go very well with brussel sprouts), but it is true in many “think tank” and “business planning sessions.” It is happening under our noses. Different forms of digital media are converging to make a more powerful impact than ever before. Having said that, let me pose the question: what can we learn from some of the research already performed on eye movements when it comes to looking at a screen? Do digital signage and Internet queries relate in any way? I would argue they do. However, Internet content and digital signage content differ greatly.
Unlike digital signage, online search queries are less visually stimulating (that is, unless your search is done on YouTube or Vimeo) and are usually used by those seeking out something. Opposingly, digital signage offers a more visually stimulating experience–the cotton-candy or watered-down version of information dispersion. Why? Well because the person near the screen is generally not seeking said information. The information is seeking them, desiring to make an impact whether the viewer likes it or not. As a result, the images and content will always be more graphical, eye-engaging, and fun. Although digital out-of-home offers a more visually stimulating experience than online marketing does, generally, the way our eyes move and the way we take in content will most likely not change from medium to medium. And, as audience measurement devices continue to improve, we will be able to better track not only how many eyes viewed (a term the OVAB refers to as the “vehicle audience”), but where on the display they were glancing.
In the case of the Google report, Google guru’s found that people generally evaluate the search results so quickly that most of their decision making is done subconsciously. Digital signage metrics evaluations have found similar results: people don’t look long and when they do, decisions are made on a “blink” time frame. Accordingly, content and metrics are moving closer and closer to the speed of eye movements and the briskness of decision making capabilities. In addition to measurement, relevancy also plays a key factor in making the content count. In the case of Google, their search team was extremely pleased with their results because, “[they] had managed to design a subtle user interface that gives people helpful information without getting in the way of their primary task: finding relevant information.” Sometimes finding relevant information means avoiding clutter, keeping things simple, and giving people what they want–meaning make the message match the audience. As I see it, digital signage is simple an outdoor extension of the Internet, especially as we see touchscreens become the digital signage of the future. In such a case, measurement devices may be best handled by the Google team…