If you have an interest in marketing and web media, you have likely heard of eye tracking – the process of measuring eye positions and movement of a person examining a visual stimulus. While the technology for measuring eye tracking is undoubtedly more advanced than ever, eye tracking was first studied in the 1800s. Research in the 19th and 20th centuries yielded revelations such as the fact that the human eye does not read smoothly but jumps over letters, and that only certain elements of a picture will hold a viewer’s attention. Today, eye tracking has become an important and widely accepted consideration in research and design in numerous industries including automotive, medical, advertising, web design and packaging design. Eye data provides a means of measuring the cognitive state of a viewer, providing insight into human behavior and information processing.
How does this research apply to the courtroom? Eye tracking plays a role in anything with a visual component. So while much of today’s research is focused on websites, the results can be easily applied to demonstratives and exhibits.
With the ability to quickly navigate between web pages, our society likes to feel in control instead of being subjugated by a computer. Because of this, we now associate even a few seconds’ delay with an unpleasant user experience and quickly become annoyed. The element of speed and the delay in elements loading on a website can be easily related to trial presentation. A good trial presentation consultant has a near prophetic ability to quickly bring up an exhibit in sync with the examining attorney.
In research done by the Nielsen Norman Group, it was found that there are average response time limits with presented visual stimuli. If a visual is presented within 1 second, the viewer’s flow of thought is seamless. Between 1-10 seconds, the viewer begins to feel as though they lack control, but it is possible to still hold their attention. After 10 seconds, the viewer’s mind begins to wander.
In a study where a widget took 8 seconds to download, eye tracking showed that the user’s attention waned and never was directed at the main content.
With even the smallest of delays proving costly, it increases the importance of fast trial presentation since an exhibit being displayed in a matter of seconds can be what keeps a juror focused on your case.
A common thread between many of our blog posts is simplicity. This is another key concept that has been researched with eye tracking. In a 2000 study performed by the Poynter Institute on how people read newspaper sites on the web, it was found that users preferred simple, straightforward headlines, instead of ones that were seen as funny or cute. It was three times as common for viewers to limit the depth of their reading, preferring summaries to full content. This is yet another reason to limit the amount of reading you are requiring of a juror from any given demonstrative.
As a society that reads from left to right, it is no surprise that viewers tend to spend more of their time looking at the left side of a page than the right. In fact, viewers tend to spend more than twice as much time (69%) on the left side of the page. While you would like to believe that you have an entire screen to fill with your demonstratives or exhibits, it is important to remember that a viewer focuses on a relatively small area of the screen. The main content should be placed between one-third to halfway across the page.
With a constantly expanding list of to-do items as you prepare for trial, visual presentation is one aspect that you can delegate. Whether you choose internal staff or an experienced legal visual company, assigning a dedicated person to manage the details of your presentation can have a huge impact on your effectiveness in the courtroom. If you understand the impact that effective trial presentation and demonstratives can have on a jury, others can do the heavy lifting.