The art of the essay

CNN cites Wikipedia


Have I got your attention now? The Eyetrack III project took a bunch of San Franciscans, plunked them down in front of various news web-sites, and tracked their eye movement — to find out what, precisely, we look at. That chart above tracks the most common results: People start in the upper left quadrant of the screen, zip to the right, then zigzag down before landing in the upper right corner.

Of course, what I immediately began wondering is — how does Collision Detection stack up? I’m no web designer; two years ago, I spent a weekend leafing through free templates at Blogskins and swiped my current look, which was created by Tyler Cole and is called “Carabeth Blue”. I liked it because it was simple, but as it turns out, it nicely cleaves to the standard viewing pattern of web surfers! After all, the lead entry in this blog each day appears precisely where the study says the average lands: Slightly to the right of the absolute upper left. Meanwhile, the “least valuable” space on the page — i.e. the very last place the eye tends to look — is the upper right corner, where I have … nothing but some white space and placer text.

It’s kind of eerie. Did I subconsciously intuit these principles when I picked my design? Or did I just luck out?

(Thanks to Boing Boing for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson