NextStage Evolution Research Brief – Image v Text Use in Menu Systems


Basis: A one year study of twelve (12) international websites (none in Asia), M/F 63/37, 17-75yo, either in college or college educated, middle to upper income class in all countries studied

Objective: To determine if people were more decisive in their navigation when an image or text was used as a primary navigation motif (menu).

Method: Four separate functions were evaluated

  1. Presentation Format Preference (a simple A/B test)
  2. Sensory to Δt Mapping (time-to-target study)
  3. Teleology (how long did they remain active after acting)
  4. Time Normalization (determines what brain functions are active during navigation)

Results: Key take-aways for this research include

  • Visual (graphic or image)-based menus cause a 40.5% increase in immediate clickthrough, site activity is sustained an additional 32% with site-penetration being an additional 2.48 pages ending in a 36% increase in capture/closure/conversion.
  • Although not tested with Asian audiences, it is doubtful this technique will work with ideographic language cultures
  • The graphics/images used must be clear, distinct and be obvious iconographic metaphors for the items/concepts they open/link to. Example: Images of a WalMart storefront, a price tag with the words “Best Price” and people shopping resulted in greater activity than a simple shopping cart (too familiar as a “What have I already selected?” image) and the simple words “Store” and “Shop” to drive visitors into buying behaviors.
  • Existing sites with text-based menu systems need to use both systems (at the obvious loss of screen real-estate) to train existing visitors on the new iconography until image-based menu items are used more often than text-based menu items.