Have you heard of eye tracking? According to my favorite online encyclopedia (Wikipedia) eye tracking is described as:
"...a technique used in cognitive science, psychology, human-computer interaction (HCI), advertising, medical research, and other areas. A camera focuses on one or both eyes and records their movement as the viewer looks at some kind of stimulus."Now, apply this concept to your website. Where do people's eyes "hone in" on first on your site? What are the "priority" areas of your webpage that people tend to focus in on first? Are we taking advantage of those "zones" to communicate our message?
Check out Eyetrack III, a very interesting article/study about the "hotspots" of a website. The Eyetrack III research team observed 46 people for one hour "as their eyes followed mock news websites and real multimedia content." The article provides an overview of what they observed.
Brent over at the holland|simpson blog has been writing a bit about this.