Online Visual Behaviour and Preferences
: A Comparative Study of Arab, English and Chinese Users

  • Mohammad Alsaffar

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research explores the online visual behaviour, performance and subjective satisfaction of Arab, English and Chinese users while interacting with Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and webpages with different layouts. It aims to provide insights and recommendations for global website design. Two methods were employed to collect the data from 30 participants from each group. Firstly, eyetracking was employed to track and measure visual behaviour. Secondly, questionnaires elicited user satisfaction levels along with preferences from a user’s point of view towards each SERP and webpage.

    Two separate studies were conducted. The first set out with the aim of exploring each
    group’s visual search behaviour while accomplishing different tasks on SERPs on a large screen (i.e. PC) and a small screen (i.e. Mobile). This study revealed differences and similarities in visual search behaviour, performance and satisfaction levels between the three groups. Arab users had the highest fixation duration in all SERP types compared to English and Chinese users. Each group exhibited different scanning strategies when searching for the answers to the study tasks. Arab users scanned each result exhaustively and horizontally. They started from the beginning
    of the results list and continued to the end, while English subjects tended to scan the results from the middle and jumped to the next result without reading the whole sentence, in order to quickly grab the keyword answering the query. Chinese users
    scattered their scanning around the page with no clear connection between fixations. The Chinese group had the highest success rate followed by the Arab and then the English groups. However, English users were the fastest group in finding the answer. Of the three layouts, the image-rich SERP was the version preferred by all groups but the popularity of plain SERP and mobile SERP varied between groups.

    The second study examined viewing behaviours and satisfaction levels while browsing non-SERP webpages, again with different layouts. This again revealed differences in viewing patterns and preferences. The elements on the right hand side
    seemed to be viewed faster and more intensively by the English and Chinese users than by the Arab users. The middle content contained areas most fixated on compared to the top and bottom. The F-shape and reverse F-shape were observed in English
    viewing patterns. English users liked the webpage with more textual elements and less distracting items, while the Chinese ones preferred webpages with more nontextual elements and the Arab users preferred webpages with a design that follows their reading direction.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorLyn Pemberton (Supervisor) & Karina Rodriguez Echavarria (Supervisor)

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