How Do Most People Navigate an Online Slide Show

The web has created new ways to organize and display information. When designing an online slide show there are a slew of techniques one could employ to guide the user through the presentation. Should there be thumbnails? A next/previous button? Arrows? Should it be linear? Non-linear? Both? The list could go on and on.

Nora Paul and Laura Ruel decided to probe these questions a little further using an eye tracking machine and 34 volunteers during a brief experiment. The participants were asked to view a Washington Post slide show titled “Cuba by Korda” which utilized all of the navigational elements mentioned above. There were no specific instructions given to the users and their only task was to navigate through the slide show for as long as they wished. Some of the interesting findings…

  • A majority of the participants relied on the Next button to progress through the slide.
  • People who used the Next button or right-hand arrow viewed twice as many slides as those clicking on the numbers below the photo.
  • Participants Using the arrows viewed the slides for the longest average time (3:31) followed by the Next button (2:34) with the Numbers people staying the shortest (2:16).
  • Viewers who chose to view the presentation linearly viewed an average of 20.75 slides while non-linear viewers saw only 6.5

Slideshow Navigation

As you can see, the web audience is a lazy bunch and it is unreasonable to expect them to view your content if it is hard for them to navigate through it. Hunting and pecking for numbers or thumbnails requires much more work than clicking a button that stays in the same place the whole time and because of the extra work the audience loses interest and gives up faster. Same goes for the linear vs. non-linear approach where non-linear requires more thinking and ultimately more work. This brief study only confirms the sayings of Steve Krug in his book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.

Read more about the slide show study.

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