Smartphone users like social signals
A study has shown that people seeking internet information using their mobile phones are more likely to click further if there are images and reviews present.
The research, conducted by digital agency Mediative, monitored people using the Google Places application on the iPhone to see how their eyes and fingers responded to details shown.
A group from Canada, aged 21 to 45, was asked to imagine they were on a road trip with a friend who wanted to get a tattoo in each city they stopped at. They therefore had to use Google Places to find a tattoo parlour in each location.
On viewing search results, eye-tracking and click-tracking measurements showed that members of the test group spent more time looking at images than other features. Furthermore, the presence of positive reviews on a listing - referred to by Mediative as 'social signals' - made it more likely that people would click to read more.
The project follows a study in November 2011, which monitored a similar situation using desktop computers. In several respects, the behaviour of desktop computer users and smartphone users was very similar, including the movement of the eyes from left to right before moving downwards.
However, the main difference observed between the two was that a smaller screen size enhanced the importance of images and reviews.
Mediative's report stated: "Given the small space of the iPhone screen, some people will have their attention pulled to the right to look at an image, and may continue a scan down to the next image, before resuming a left-to-right scan pattern.
"In the examples we used in this study, in almost every case it meant that they would scroll down until they hit a listing with a better than 3-star review."
Mediative concluded that a high position and social signals were vital to the success of a listing and that people need to feel they can trust a website before proceeding to read more about it.
Mark Baker, online marketing manager at theEword, said: "We all know that images draw the eye, but their enhanced effect when displayed on a smartphone means that businesses should think carefully about how they design and optimise their mobile websites.
"Likewise, people are more likely to place faith in your business if your Google Places listing features a good number of positive reviews from previous users."