When lots of advertising is ok

By Nicole Harlow

In our research we often find that users are frustrated by overly large flashing images and videos. Banner blindness is a very commonly understood phenomenon where too much, inappropriate advertising becomes invisible.

However, there are circumstances where advertising is a valuable part of the user experience.

We recently completed a study involving brides-to-be where timely and relevant adverts contributed to, rather than hindered, the user experience. We found that the shopping model used by brides-to-be actively seeks out glossy ad content and that excitement was generated when seeking inspiration and ideas from advertisements in magazines, at wedding fairs and importantly, online. 

Brides were interested in looking at stories and adverts to collect inspiration and build a picture of their wedding.  Online adverts in this context can provide a relevant mood board of inspiration that gets users excited about using a site. In this instance, advertising played an important role in helping users to find and filter their options and make sense of chaotic and haphazard ‘cottage industry’ supplier networks. As wedding plans progressed and preparation tasks became more difficult and mundane, advertising proved effective in maintaining momentum, interest and excitement.

Advertising doesn’t always have to negatively impact on the user experience. When adverts are timely, relevant and tailored to the user, they can contribute to a great user experience. 

Adverts and the user experience: top tips

If you work in weddings or a similar environment where advertising has a positive impact on the user experience, consider these pieces of design advice.

  • Carefully position advertising to ensure it doesn’t dominate your site or fall victim to ‘banner blindness’ and go unnoticed (e.g. where possible avoid overly large banner ads).
  • Make clear the difference between editorial content and advertising by visually separating them. The visual treatment of the advert should not take priority over key content on the site.
  • Make advertising contextual. Associate it with the task users are doing to support the user journey and provide a richer user experience (e.g If a user is creating a seating plan for their wedding, advertise chair covers etc.).
  • Make calls to action clear and engaging – make obvious what the offer/benefit is and what kind of content they will see next. Ultimately, give users confidence in what will happen when they click on an ad.
  • Where possible, relate adverts to the brand to reassure users they are in the right place.
  • Make advertising inspirational, suprising, informative, relevant and above all useful to the user.

What do you think?