Stop torturing your website visitors

Posted by Dave CollinsGeneral, Website Optimisation

Remember when 468 x 80 banners were the big thing?

I do. In fact I used to sell advertising on some of our websites using the format, as did most websites at that time.

Then we hit ICO – Inevitable Cycle of Overuse.

Stage 1 – the format takes off; now “everybody” is using it.

Stage 2 – we see so many banners that our brains start to automatically filter them out and ignore them.

Stage 3 – the “clever” people realise they need to make their banners stand out. They start using bright, garish colours to irritate your senses.

Stage 4 – the “clever” people realise they need to make their banners stand out from the other bright, garish banners. They start using irritating animations that distract you from what you’re doing.

Stage 5 – the “clever” people realise they need to make their banners really stand out from the other bright garish animated banners. They start using horrible sounds that hurt your head.

Stage 6 – our brains have to work too hard to filter out and ignore the audio-visual debris that bombards them. The “fed up” people buy software that blocks banners.

Stage 7 – free add-ons for web browsers that stop the ads working.

Incredibly, the 468 x 80 banner is still in use. To me this is like using waterboarding for brainstorming. But thanks to phenomenal over-use of the 468 x 80 format, it’s nowhere near as effective (or expensive) as it used to be.

Today I see a new breed of 468 x 80: the slider ads, such as AnythingSlider.

These are just as annoying a format as 468 x 80 ever was. Yet this format has a twist. People are using it as a substitute for poor web design.

Instead of using a well-designed navigation structure, some web designers have decided that it’s more effective to throw their products and services at visitors (at speed) the moment they arrive.

We’re approaching Stage 2 of the ICO syndrome, but it won’t be long before we start ignoring them, and you know what happens next.

Advertising in 2010 shouldn’t be about interrupting, annoying or distracting your potential customers. And if your irritating ads take up large amounts of your web pages, what do you think the initial impression of your website will be?

Break the cycle. Inform your visitors; don’t interrupt, bombard or torture them.