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What is the hot potato phenomenon of eyetracking in UI?

Sheza Naveed

Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

On an interface, different UI elements compete for the user’s attention. Elements with useful information such as navigation bars usually get the user’s attention, while users ignore others.

Hot potato phenomenon refers to the user behavior/pattern. When users look at a specific area on an interface and find the information they are not interested in, they avoid spending time on that area and look away. This influences both their local behavior on the respective webpage as well as their general behavior towards interfaces. Users may begin to avoid that area even on other pages of that web page and other websites that are totally unrelated to the one where they saw the irrelevant information before.

This can especially happen with ads. Ads are the elements that do not contain useful information relevant to the users’ tasks and thus are ignored by users. The traits of ads that might be present in other elements as well are:

  • Ad-specific placement - placed on right rail or top of the page.

  • Ad-like visual treatment - animation etc.

  • Proximity - promotions etc.

It is possible that users start ignoring the parts of an interface where ads are more likely to appear. They may exhibit the same behavior on other pages as well.

The hot potato phenomenon is an example of availability bias. Users base their assumption of the same type of content appearing on the same location based on very few examples, i.e., 1 or 2. It is a defense mechanism adopted by users to avoid wasting their time and attention on irrelevant content. For example, when content appears on the right rail and resembles ads, users are likely to ignore it. As shown below, the offer to download the app of the same website is likely to be ignored by users, as it is placed on a typical ad location, and its content resembles an ad.

Source: Daraz

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Sheza Naveed
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Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

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