No surprise – Internet users dislike traditional online advertisements.
Our recent User Experience Consumer Survey (a collaboration with Brave UX) found that 72% of heavy Internet users – defined as those who use the Internet four or more hours per day – listed “too many advertisements” in the top three most frustrating issues encountered with websites and apps.
We’ve heard the dismal statistics about banner and display advertisements. In case you need a refresher, though, here are some truly abysmal ones:
- The average click-through rate of display ads across all formats and placements is 0.17%. (Yes, you read that right.)
- One study found that only 2.8% of participants thought ads on websites were relevant.
- 33% of Internet users find display ads completely intolerable.
Read Part 1 of the User Experience Consumer Survey here.
What is it about these advertisements that turns off Internet users, though? And is there any way to make online advertising work?
“This is the million-dollar question,” said Jordan DeVries, Director of User Experience at Brave UX. “Without wanting to slam an entire generation of users, the expectations have been raised in terms of what content is owned. So people look at cute cat pictures all day. Well, someone had to take those cute cat pictures, upload them and post them. As far as I know, there is no subscription to cute cat photographs where somebody’s getting paid.”
Advertising is vital to online business. However, according to Yazin Akkawi, founder and principal designer at MSTQ, traditional online advertising doesn’t work because it often disrupts user flow.
“If I’m interrupted with what I’m trying to do by an advertisement, it would significantly ruin not only my user experience, but the trust I have for the site’s brand,” said Akkawi.
Yet, he said, websites can still capitalize on display ads by positioning them at moments where the work flow naturally breaks or ends.
“So I’ve completed a transaction... That’s a positive experience that I’m having. I’m excited for the product that I just purchased, given that it’s a traditional shopping experience. I just bought a shiny new toy like a GoPro. You can capitalize on that moment in so many ways.”
DeVries says that traditional display advertisements often also generate feelings of skepticism. Internet users feel manipulated by online advertising.
“The problem is so much worse than ‘How do I integrate advertising into my UX?’,” he said. “What we’re finding is that there are UIs that don’t have advertising integrated and they’re still getting the negative effects. People are suspicious of their user experience because of how poor the ads have been implemented elsewhere.”
What is the solution then? Well, for one, it’s important to be upfront about your advertising.
“I think that’s a big thing with this generation… They’re overly empathic and they want the truth,” said Denis Lacasse, Executive Vice President at Momentum Design Lab. “They want to understand. If you try to be dishonest and try to lead them, it won’t work. Make them look like ads and tell them – I have a product I think might interest you.”
Of course, content marketing may still save us all. “I think the most successful way of integrated sponsorship has been when the sponsor is helping contribute to the content and there’s a direct and explicit relationship,” said DeVries.
The average Internet user will not recognize display ads’ importance in generating revenue and maintaining a website. To them, it’s just a nuisance. So to keep the tenuous partnership between your site’s user experience and advertisements happy, don’t interrupt, don’t deceive, and remember – content is still king.
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