Comparing efficacy of web design of university websites: Mixed methodology and first results for Russia and the USA
Understanding the mechanisms of visual perception is important in the context of both media research and its applications in design practice. Within the functional approach to interface design, eye tracking is an established method to analyze interface efficacy. At the same time, in today's media design, many rules have been established by practitioners and remain untested. In this mixed-method study, we combine web crawling, web analytics and heat map analysis based on eye tracking, and qualitative usability analysis of composite-graphic model of a website. We check whether eye tracking test results (numeric data and heat map analysis) correlate to usability of key pages of a large website, as measured qualitatively according to recommendations of leading design literature. Among large web spaces, university website clusters represent a special type and suit well for our analysis, as they unite very different publics and are multi-task. We elaborate and pre-test the methodology on three sites of leading universities in the USA and Russia (Harvard University, Moscow State University and St.Petersburg State University). Our results suggest that there is no direct link between design-based elements of page usability and numeric eye tracking data, but heat maps show correlation with design quality; this means we need to continue checking the suggested methodology on larger number of assessors.