Why ad banners can ruin your website design

Television and print ads are waning. People are fast forwarding through commercials on their DVRs and purchasing fewer printed publications. This is a problem for advertisers. If your ads aren't being seen, then your brand isn't getting exposure. What is the alternative? Ad banners on websites. It is often times far less expensive to purchase an online ad banner and your visibility can reach a greater audience. So, then what's the problem? Over-saturation.

I frequently see websites that have far too many ad banners. Some ads are Flash based, which hog internet bandwidth and cause a site to load incredibly slow. Some ads flicker and animate to try and get your attention. These are annoying enough to cause a viewer to leave the site altogether. And most of the time, these websites have sold SO MUCH ad banner space, that there is more advertising than valuable content.

In my opinion, this is a major fail. I applaud a company for generating the income that so many ad banners bring in, but what ends up happening is that the site's integrity is compromised.

Too Many Ad Banners Example: I navigate to an article that I hope will provide some valuable information about my topic of interest. The page loads after waiting almost 15-20 seconds (sometimes longer) as opposed to the normal 1-3 seconds. At the very top, there is an advertising banner. The site's masthead is located directly under the ad. Under the masthead is a large ad banner (sometimes 2). Under that is the article title. Under that is ANOTHER advertisement.

(click image to see full size layout)

The actual article content doesn't begin until at least 5″ below the top of the page. Depending on your monitor's size and resolution, you may not even see the content until almost at the “fold” of the page. The entire right side of the page is 100% filled with ad banners. 2-3 columns of small ads. From the visual example, you can clearly see there are more ads on this site than actual content. Does this make sense?

Think about it. If you were reading the newspaper on your way to work, wouldn't it irritate you it took you 5-6x as long to open the page that contained the story in which you were interested, and even longer to read the article because you had to search for the relevant content through a sea of advertisements? Or if you were shopping in a store and you had to spend an extra hour just searching in-between displays, counters, racks and shelves to find the actual products, as opposed to misplaced signage, would you go back there? Probably not.

I am not completely opposed to advertisements, but they should be placed in more strategic locations. If your website is there to provide valuable content, then make it easier for your visitors. There are literally millions of websites out there. Within each industry, there are several thousand websites. All of these sites are competing for visitor loyalty, sales and shared links. Keep in mind, you have only one second to make a first impression on the internet. If a visitor is confused or frustrated with your site, then he/she may not ever return.

The user is most likely going to be interested in a few things:

  • Can I find what I am looking for?
  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • Does the site load fast enough? I don't have time to wait.
  • Is the site designed well? (aesthetics)

Sure not everyone is looking at aesthetics, so they think. Website aesthetics are the equivalent of packaging on store shelves. If and when price is not a factor, the first thing a consumer will look at is packaging design and presentation, right?

The best rule of thumb in website design, especially when you have a lot of information to offer, is to keep is simple.

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