Jakob Nielsen on banner blindness

August 20, 2007

Really good insight as ever from usability expert Jakob Nielsen here. In this article he discusses whats known as banner blindness, the fact that users are often oblivious to the presence of banner adverts on the web. The study he’s undertaken involved eyetracking and the results are pretty conclusive.

The findings show that designing banner ads which supposedly stand out as they are different colours and using borders is actually a false economy and you are better off integrating your advertising into a websites content. Users tend to avoid focusing on objects that look very different from the site design, often hardly glancing at them and rarely clicking. Google are an example of someone who’s got this just right in their implementation of Adwords. As everyone knows, one of the main reasons Adwords works so well is that users rarely identify them as any different to a natural search result.

It’s something I’ve always suspected as users always respond better to cohesive designs where all the elements of a website hang together and complement each other. We recently redesigned our homepage and one of the elements was a promo banner displaying a ‘book online and save’ message. In the new design this is just a textual message on the screen as opposed to a bordered banner, and traffic to that page has doubled since the design changed!

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