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Poynter EyeTrack study looks at how iPad users view news

by David Needle

May 4 2012

Poynter says the carousel view (shown above) used by sites like NPR and CNN, invites swiping and is a visual invitation to navigate the app.
Poynter says the carousel view (shown above) used by sites like NPR and CNN, invites swiping and is a visual invitation to navigate the app.

The Poynter Institute has released some preliminary data that looks at how tablet users use the device to view news, specifically in this case, photo galleries.

Poynter said initial results from its “EyeTrack: Tablet” project show that iPad users have an overwhelming instinct to swipe horizontally through a full screen photo gallery, regardless of portrait or landscape orientation.

“Much news content on tablets currently call for users to swipe horizontally between stories and vertically through the actual text of a story. But most photo galleries move horizontally through a single story or topic. This finding supports that approach to photo galleries,” said Poynter’s Sara Dickenson Quinn in an article at the journalism school’s site. 

Participants who were given an iPad in landscape orientation swiped horizontally 93% of the time, while in portrait they swiped horizontally 82% of the time. 

The findings were based on observations of a relatively small sample size of about 100 iPad users and is part of an ongoing research project that will involve observations of more complex tablet interactions. 

In a few weeks, the Poynter teams plans to begin using eye-tracking gear to see how people use three different tablet entryways and a variety of story and advertising forms.

“In addition to eye-tracking equipment, we’re using observational analysis, survey and exit interviews,” said Quinn.

Poynter has set up a Facebook page with more information about the project and how to get involved. They’re currently looking for 20-30 “great stories” with strong “shelf life” to be included in the prototype testing. Stories should exemplify storytelling in a variety of forms for tablets — written, video, photo and both static and interactive graphics.

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