A Close Look at the Phenomenon: An Eye Tracking Study on the Usability of the Profile Pages in Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites (SNS) are one of the major phenomena of Web in recent years as they can easily provide a base for self-expression and positive experiences of social pleasure. Although, they constitute one of most popular categories of Web with millions of dedicated users, user-centered studies contrarily showed that SNS performed poorly in terms of traditional web usability. However, failing in terms of usability did not seem to result in the rejection of these websites. Recent studies demonstrated that the only negative experience felt by users in SNS is frustration, which is mainly gained from the abundance of applications embedded in pages, but this is easily outweighed by the positive user experiences that the SNS facilitate. The studies point out the need for employing diverse methods of evaluation to encompass the holistic user experience in SNS. The purpose of this study is to explore the usability of the profile pages of the SNS through the analysis of behavioral user data. This study specifically aims to focus on the perception of the profile pages of 5 popular SNS through an eye-tracking study conducted with 24 university students. Eye movement data including eye fixation counts, durations, revisits and nonattention points on the profile pages are analyzed. The findings reveal that vivid visual design isn’t really useful on SNS and simplicity should be favoured in order to improve usability in profile pages. Only relevant information should be presented in profile pages and content blocks need to be visually separated in order to make the content readable, scannable and easy to perceive. Findings also show that users mostly pay attention to the “profile picture” and list of “recent activities” in the profile pages. These results supported the notion that one-column layout appeared to be an effective layout for accurately scanning such lists and users preferred to see faces of their friends around content in profile pages.

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