Beware the “weak signifier”:
When we compared average number of fixations and average amount of time people spent looking at each page, we found that:
- The average amount of time was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong-signifier versions. On average participants spent 22% more time (i.e., slower task performance) looking at the pages with weak signifiers.
- The average number of fixations was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong-signifier versions. On average, people had 25% more fixations on the pages with weak signifiers.
(Both findings were significant by a paired t-test with sites as the random factor, p < 0.05.)
This means that, when looking at a design with weak signifiers, users spent more time looking at the page, and they had to look at more elements on the page. Since this experiment used targeted findability tasks, more time and effort spent looking around the page are not good. These findings don’t mean that users were more “engaged” with the pages. Instead, they suggest that participants struggled to locate the element they wanted, or weren’t confident when they first saw it.