Over time, we’ve developed a complete ignorance towards website banners. So ignorant are we, that when studying banners through the use of eye tracking software, this study found that users blocked out the banners entirely. So if our filters are so sophisticated, how do we combat banner blindness and get our messages into the mind of our users?
Why Did We Use Banners?
Banners were the first form of advertising online and were born through developers and brands aiming to monetize the then new-fangled platform of the internet. However, the inbound nature of the internet is at odds with the outbound character of the banner ad. As the internet has developed, as has our knowledge of what to expect online, as well as our defensive filters designed to steer us clear of threats or, in the case of the internet, irrelevance.
We have the same subconscious ignorance when it comes to the typical homepage carousel. This was proven by a study reported on Business Insider, which found that users don’t pay too much attention carousels, as they’re perceived as intrusive or ads. With carousels, lots of competing messages in the same place, usually the home page, leads to focus being lost.
Why Do We Still Use Banners?
Perhaps there’s an element of complacency, as website owners continue doing what they’ve always done in maintaining the status quo. Alternatively, maybe brands continue to believe that banners work. Maybe they’re content with receiving the advertising revenue from their banners. Whatever the case, it doesn’t change the fact that banners still plague our screens and still have the impact of using a toffee hammer to break down a fire door.
But what should you do instead?
The alternatives to banners will depend on the reasoning behind the inclusion of banners in the first place.
If you use banners for advertising and revenue generating, there a more effective ways of generating income via your website. For example, you could:
- Write product reviews
- Include ads in the body of your pages as opposed to in the header or side bar
- Affiliate schemes, including links to sponsored websites
- Guest blogging
If you use banners and carousels for your own benefit; to promote new products, highlight company news and developments or cross-sell services, then instead of using banners, you should consider these two significant things:
- Timing. A banner is a generic shout at every website visitor. A catchall bellow will always fail to attract the attention of users with specific needs. Your first objective should be to serve your customer with what they came to your site for. Then, once you’ve met their needs, you can show them what would have otherwise been in the banner. Include this information on after sales confirmation pages, your form thank you pages or even underneath product descriptions or blog posts.
- Placement. People tend to ignore the right-hand side of the page, as they’re aware that, on most websites, this area contains ads. So you need to position your offering in a place where the user is going to focus. Within the content itself could prove profitable and, in particular, at the foot of the page. Not as many people will see something hidden at the foot of the page, but for those that do make it down there, they’re searching for something else to do, a next place to go. As a result, attention tends to increase at the foot of web pages, which will give your offering more chance of being noticed and clicked.
As with most things regarding web design, it’s all about testing and iteratively improving. Try the above and see if it works for you.
We certainly can’t reverse banner blindness, but our job as designers and marketers is to find alternative ways to make things work for both our customers and our business. Increasingly, we’re finding that banners aren’t the best way to do this these days.
Do you use banners or carousels? Do they work for you? It would be great to get your feedback in the comments below.