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Many blog posts display their authors portrait within or next to their text. I suppose the idea behind this is to let the user feel the author is talking to her or to personalize the environment when reading. I often feel distracted and forced to look at the person instead of reading the text.

Are there any studies concerning usability when displaying faces within a text? I'm quite sure this is not a good practices but would prefer to rely on evident data rather than subjective opinion.

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I think this question is beyond usability matters. It has little to do with ease of use (unless photo takes huge space, etc.), it's more about how people behave. This is persuasive design area, as they call it. Or neuro web design.

The author's photo has a root in parer publishing as marketing tool and placed frequently on the back cover of a book. People pay attention to faces (see Matt Obee answer), so this technique definitely works.

Still the reaction on the author's photo is highly subjective, and cannot be 100% predictable. Hence the person's photo could be the source of cognitive bias.

For example, for somebody the person on a photo could look like ex-boyfriend. This could lead to rizing negative emotion, which is transferred to the text.

So to avoid cognitive bias it's better to place the author's photo at the end of the text:
enter image description here

Actually, the cognitive bias still works, but in the opposite way: the text influences the photo.

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People are naturally quick to recognise faces wherever they appear and they will always draw attention when they appear within content.

I think Susan Weinschenk has written about faces in at least two of her books. This extract, for example:

  • People recognize and react to faces on Web pages faster than anything else on the page (at least by those who are not autistic).
  • Faces looking right at people will have the greatest emotional impact on a Web page, probably because the eyes are the most important part of the face.
  • If a face on a Web page looks at another spot or product on the page, people will also tend to look at that product. This doesn't necessarily mean that they paid attention to it, just that they physically looked at it.
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  • Interesting facts. Thank you. What would be interesting to know is if that emotional impact improves the sites ux or has an opposite effect: The user is distracted and can not fully concentrate on the text. – uxfelix Jun 23 '14 at 10:52
  • @uxfelix Personality, emotions, and trust, which are brought with real author portrait, improve UX. Think of interaction with site as conversation. I place the comment instead of answer to not distract you with my photo on the avatar ). – Alexey Kolchenko Jun 23 '14 at 11:08
  • @AlexeyKolchenko The context is different. In the real world I listen to the person who is talking to me (passive) and can pay attention to many other different things like gestures, mimic, tone and voice at the same time. Whereas online I decided to read the content (active). – uxfelix Jun 23 '14 at 11:35

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