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Summary: Users are likely to methodically scan comparison tables row by row, from right to left and back again.
On pages with distinct cells of content, people often scan those cells in a lawn mower pattern : they begin in the top left cell, move to right until the end of the row, then drop down to last cell of the next row and move back to the left until the end of the row; and so on. In our eyetracking research , we observed this pattern on many types of pages and tables (especially zigzag layouts ) but most frequently on comparison tables . This article focuses on how the lawn mower pattern applies to comparison tables.
Users are likely to engage in this pattern whenever they are actively comparing several features of two or more adjacent products or services in a comparison table . (An exception would be if a user is only interested in comparing a single feature of the products — for example, price. In that case, the user would be likely to focus on a single row and wouldn’t engage in this pattern. Also, this pattern may be slightly different if the user is interested in comparing only two nonadjacent products in a comparison table that contains more than 2 products.)
The pattern is often proceeded by an appraisal — the user quickly processes the table’s layout before reading more closely.