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How to cure banner blindness

According to Jakob Nielsen, these are the four most effective ways to attract peoples' eyeballs to ads:

- Making ads look like dialog boxes
- Making ads look like native content
- Using plain text
- Including faces
- Including cleavage and other "private" body parts

While Jakob finds that the last three present no ethical dilemmas, the first two do: Making an ad look like native content violates publishing's principle of separating editorial content and paid advertisement. Making it look like a dialog box is just plain deceptive.

In the article, Jakob also discusses how banner blindness is still real: Users don't look at anything that resembles ads, even if they aren't. If they glance at them, they typically don't engage with them. Often, they don't even see the advertiser's logo or name.


  • Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - August 20, 2007

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See also: Research (130) 



Turn off ads for regular visitors

Matthew Haughey has noticed that the people who click on ads are usually one-time visitors who are lost and will never return to the site again. Regular visitors come for the content and quickly learn to visually filter out the ads.

So why not turn of ads for signed up members and regular visitors? Matthew Haughey gave it a try and found that he lost virtually nothing.


  • How Ads Really Work: Superfans and Noobs Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 07, 2007 - via Signal vs. Noise

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Jared Spool on how bad usability and aggressive advertising can hurt brands

Google has published a 45 minute video with Jared Spool talking about online branding:

"What's the most effective way to strengthen a brand on the internet? Recent research shows that it isn't using traditional branding techniques. In fact, those tried-and-true methods can actually hurt your brand, if implemented poorly.

In this presentation, Jared Spool will discuss how User Interface Engineering's recent usability research has uncovered some fascinating truths about how people perceive brands on the internet."


  • Strike Up The Brand: How to Design for Branding (Google video) Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - May 31, 2007 - via Usability In the News

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See also: Audio and video (48)  Talks and presentations (18) 



Banner blindness is determined by navigation style

In a study, Magnus Pagedarm and Heike Schaumbrug found that when users browse websites "aimlessly", they are significantly better at recalling and recognising banner ads compared to users searching for specific information.

The authors suggest that navigation style exerts a significant influence on users' attention focusing. Directed search focuses users' attention on areas of the site that are expected to contain relevant information, while aimless browsing is guided by the appeal of the different features on a web page.


  • The article Why Are Users Banner-Blind? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - January 11, 2005

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See also: Navigation (63)  Research (130) 



Banner blindness

The notion of banner blindness was originally introduced by the research team Benway and Lane in their paper from 1998. In a study they found that when users search for specific information they generally ignore anything that looks like an advertisement. In fact, they have a tendency to overlook anything that stands out.

The authors have the following advice to designers:

"One item separated visually from everything else on a web page may be completely ignored by web searchers, even by searchers who are deliberately searching for the information provided in that item. Designers should be cautious about following guidelines stating that increasing the visual distinction between "important" items and other items is desirable; the visual distinctiveness may actually make important items seem unimportant."


  • The article Banner Blindness Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - December 30, 2004

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Big, bold, and colourful doesn't make things noticeable

The fact that people tend to ignore big, flashy, and colourful banners at the top of web pages suggest that screaming out loud doesn't guarantee that something will be noticed.

According to Don Norman, this has to do with conventions. People guide their search using previous knowledge about websites and direct their attention directly to the location most likely to contain information of interest, such as lists of blue underlined links.

Don's moral: "...if you want something to be salient, follow conventions. Violate the conceptual model, even if the violation seems perfectly sensible, and you are apt to discover that readers miss critical information."


  • The article Banner Blindness, Human Cognition and Web Design Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - November 22, 2004

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See also: Tips and guidelines (95)  Visual design (20)  Web page design (41) 



Pop-up ads work

Sad but true


  • The article Pop-Ups Work Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - June 11, 2003

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Making Web Advertisements Work

Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman support one of UIE's findings: Users are not willing to be seduced before they have accomplished their initial goal with their visit to a site.

"Web users are highly goal-driven, and ads that interfere with their goals will be ignored."

"Reach users when they're interested and have the time -- don't bother them when they're least likely to attend. Unfortunately, most current Web advertising approaches are aimed at taking what doesn't work and making it ever bigger and more annoying, continuously fighting user behavior. Moving in the wrong direction at a faster pace is not a very insightful strategy."


Henrik Olsen - May 05, 2003

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Shoppers hate advertisements and can't find products

According to a survey carried out by Retail Forward,
- 64% of online shoppers report being satisfied with their shopping experience
- 2% report their online shopping experience to be 'frustation-free'

According to the same survey, the top five online shopping frustrations are:
- Pop-up boxes when shopping a site (52%)
- Banner advertisements (50%)
- Congested Web pages (35%)
- Slow load times (26%)
- Difficult to find a specific product (20%)


  • Press release from Retail Forward Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 21, 2002

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See also: E-commerce (28)  Research (130) 


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