I found this study into faces in images on James Breeze’s Usable World Blog really interesting, and maybe quite surprising. Using eye-tracking software he has shown how image selection is very important and small details can make a huge difference as to whether your message is getting across.
The study uses images with text on them and focuses on what part of an image people look at, in what order, and how you can edit an image to ensure the customer is getting the message. What’s the point of adding a message to an image if it’s not going to get read? For example, you put the headline on your homepage: “Sale Now On”, obviously you want people to read that message, but did you think the marketing image you chose to go along side it would make a big difference? This is something cataloguers have been considering and putting into practice for some time, and it’s interesting that the same theory applies in the digital world.
James finds that people will first fixate on the face of the person in the image, and then follow the gaze of that face. So for example, if the face was aimed towards the message “Sale Now On”, you could ensure your message was getting across.
James even goes as far as to test the theory on his 11-month old son, and you can see the entertaining video here.