This introductory article on the role of contrast in design says

Designers should know that we humans habitually scan our surroundings. We may focus on one small area or item for a time, but when we change our field of vision, we first begin to visually “consume” that new view by performing a quick scan. In doing this, we unconsciously look for elements of contrast, things that stand out from the forest of mundane elements, as part of our instinctive threat-detection process.

I'd like to read up more on that initial scan, but I can't find an established term for it. And searching for "initial scan" or "quick scan" gives results from all over the place.

Is there an established term for this behaviour?

  • 1
    I haven't come across a particular term, but since you're actually looking for more information, I would suggest to read this book and/or this book. That are particular good reads about how we can see and recognize things and how you can design for that.
    – jazZRo
    Mar 23 '20 at 11:36

Scanning is widely used term for users' method to gather information from the page for them to decide whether it is useful to spend more on the page.

Jakob Nielsen in How Users Read on the Web:

People rarely read Web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.

Jared Spool in Goal Challenges and Tool Challenges

This combination lets you see the best flights quickly by visually scanning all the details.

Luke Wroblewski in Communicate Quick: First Impressions Through Visual Web Design

A person looks over the page and determines it might be relevant to their goals then quickly scans the page for the information they need.

As implied in your quote, this scan happens every time user changes focus, be it another display or different web page. So can it be said that every scan is initial scan after the focus has shifted?

Probably the best way to understand scanning in this context is to read on scan patterns, meaning the paths people's eyes take while they scan content on a web page for example.

Google search for "scan patterns usability" and Google Scholar search for "scan patterns usability"

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