How Do Ads Affect User Experience And 7 Tips to Improve UX with Ads.

Traditional ads are not effective anymore, because they aren’t relevant while I am browsing a article on UX but they are showing me shoes!Definitely a good distraction, I must say.

Marketing Automation Statistics

Advertisements have become integral to how websites and applications operate, receive revenue, and interact with users. Recognizing the need to run ads without compromising the user’s experience can be a tricky balancing act. Learning which type of ad formats perform best and where to place your ads will help your organization increase user engagement, user satisfaction, and the entire online user experience.

In the past, target audiences had no say in the advertisements they were consuming. When watching TV, commercial breaks were inevitable. There were no ad-free streaming services like Netflix. Online ads, once inescapably ubiquitous, have been dealt a major blow with the prevalence of ad-blocking browser plugins and YouTube’s “skip” button.

This is not to say the Internet is officially an ad-free space – it is far from it. However, there has been a sharp increase in the control users have over the ads they see. This presents a new challenge for online marketers: with less opportunities to advertise, they need to ensure the ads that do reach the user are impactful and relevant.

Creating impactful, relevant experiences for the user? Sounds like a job description for the UX designer. And when marketers create ads customized to the user, UX designers can leverage these relevant, even meaningful advertisements to enhance the experience of their audience.

You read that correctly: when UX and advertising are leveraged together, the result can be an ad that the user actually makes a connection with. This symbiotic relationship between designer and marketer is a relatively new phenomenon, but their collaboration is not a mere trend.

Finding Common Ground

Both Google and Facebook, the veritable keepers of the online domain, have validated this relationship between adverts and UX. Both websites’ advertising algorithms heavily favor brands that deliver a high-quality user experience. Google even emphasizes this in its cryptic search ranking algorithm – sites with ads that employ better UX rank higher than those without.

When examining the underlying nature of UX design and advertising, their intersection is not all that surprising. The crux of both fields rests on answering a similar, if not identical, set of questions: who is this for? What do they value?

These are questions of empathy, of emotional insight into the user. Both ad creatives and UX designers must consider these when crafting a new campaign or platform. The UX design agency I work for even reserves a sizable portion of the design process to the generation of an “empathy map”, a diagram outlining different user personas and their feelings, thoughts, and reactions when interfacing with various parts of the site.

Injecting UX Into Online Adverts

So what does a UX-driven advertisement look like today? Regarding content, the guideline is pretty straightforward. Any advertisement that is presented should ideally be aligned with the target audience of your website. Another useful tip is to avoid showing adverts that go against the core values of your organization.

In terms of presentation, it is probably easier to first nail down what it does not look like. It is not incessant, irrelevant pop-ups that interrupt your users workflow. It is not the pop-up’s evil stepbrother, the pop-under. And it is certainly not those god-awful auto-playing videos. A degree of balance should also be maintained in terms of the space allocated between content and advertising space.

An advertisement informed by UX is unintrusive, yet noticeable. It is driven by aggregated data to be supremely relevant to the user, offering personalized content based on their browsing history, habits, and routines. On mobile platforms, some companies leverage gestures to inject interaction into their ads, like this ad from Kohl’s.

Image source: Kohl’s

Another important guideline is that adverts that take the form of articles should be clearly marked as such. Users should never be misled into thinking that a product is being genuinely recommended when in reality it is paid content. Ideally, this disclosure should not take the form of some really fine print hidden at the end of an advert.

There is no formula for a perfect online ad, just like there is no formula for the perfect website. Both UX designers and ad creatives have to rely on research and iterative design to craft a product that users can emotionally connect with.

Types of digital ads for sites and apps

Different types of digital ads can be combined on the same page. For example, you can have a video display, a native mobile ad, or both. Some types are better suited for different use cases, so knowing how they work can help you decide when and where to use them.

Display ads

The most common ads on a blog or a popular news site are simple display ads. They typically combine images and text but can include videos, audio, and graphics.

Display ads come in various forms, including:

  • Banners
  • Landing pages
  • Pop-ups
  • Flash ads

Display ads are popular thanks partly to the low entry barrier and easy implementation. Most sites only need a specific number of monthly visitors to qualify, and site owners can add them to their site with a simple line of pre-written code.

Because display ads are so easy to implement, they’re sometimes overused, resulting in less relevance and specificity to the target audience, which means lower conversion rates. UX designers must restrict the number of display ads on a page and monitor their relevance to create a better user experience.

Native ads

If pop-up ads are intrusive and annoying, native ads are, ideally, the opposite. They’re often camouflaged within the platform they appear on, designed to look more like an organic part of the content instead of a traditional advertisement. 

Instead of the ad sticking out and intentionally trying to catch the user’s attention, native ads blend into their surroundings. Multiple elements should match the style of the website or application, including:

  • Design
  • Colors
  • Text
  • Images

Think of how Facebook ads appear as just another post within your feed. If not for the Sponsored tag, you couldn’t distinguish between an ad and your friend’s post.

To best use native ads for user experience, ensure that these ads align with your platform’s style and substance. The ad should match the visual design and appear in content that’s already interesting to the user.

Video ads

Whether short clips that last a few seconds or longer videos that run for several minutes, video ads are designed to engage users more effectively than static ads. They often use storytelling techniques to create an emotional connection with the viewer.

Auto-playing video ads are displayed on websites and apps in a few common ways. One of the most popular methods is pre-roll video ads, which play before the user’s chosen content starts on platforms like YouTube. Mid-roll ads interrupt the content partway through, similar to traditional TV commercials. Another standard format is in-banner video ads, where the video plays within a traditional ad banner space on a webpage.

Effective video ad content is tailored to the platform and the audience, considering how users interact with it and what kind of content they expect to see.

While video ads can be highly engaging, they should also be used as a balanced ad strategy. Too many video ads can be intrusive and annoying, harming the user experience and the advertiser’s reputation. It’s important to balance video ads with other forms of content and ad formats.

Mobile ads

Most ad types that function on websites—display ads, video ads, and native ads—also take mobile forms. The main difference will be the ad’s dimensions and how it is displayed on smaller screen sizes instead of larger desktops. 

Mobile ads are displayed much like other ads. They are used as banners at the top or bottom of a page, as full-screen ads covering all the content, or blended seamlessly with the content, like native ads. Since smaller devices don’t have as much space for user interaction, the ads can only take up so much real estate. Otherwise, users will find the navigation frustrating, and bounce rates will increase.

Timing and frequency are also important considerations. Bombarding users with too many ads in a short period can lead to ad fatigue and negative sentiment toward the advertiser. Instead, try spreading out ad delivery and capping the number of ads shown to each user per day.

Respect for the user should be paramount in mobile advertising. Offering users the ability to control their ad experiences, such as opting out of certain ads or adjusting their ad preferences, can significantly improve user experience and foster a more positive relationship between the user and the advertiser.

Mixture of ad formats engages customers

You might assume that if you designed ads to be consistent with one another and relevant to the page context, they might provide a better user experience. However, according to user research, a mix of ads and ad formats drives more engagement than monotonous ad formats.

Using only one kind of ad format or promoting ads that are all similar in topic or style can lead to oversaturation and a lack of effectiveness. The user becomes desensitized and essentially sees past or ignores the ads, leading to lower engagement rates.

On the other hand, a diverse mix of ad formats tailored to the platform and audience creates a more dynamic experience for users. They don’t feel bombarded with just one type of ad, so they’re more likely to pay attention and engage.

Use a combination of display, native, and video ads across your site or application pages. Mix in ads that use browsing history to offer products or services relevant to the user but not necessarily to the content on-page.

The Future Of UX & Advertising

I do not know any UX designers who would consider themselves ‘advertisers’, but the truth is that more and more ad agencies are opening positions for the UX-minded. Some have even created an industry-specific title for them – the “creative technologist”.

Whatever the business card says, it is important to recognize the relationship between advertising and user experience. While they seem incompatible, their forces combined can benefit both sides: for the marketer, a more engaging, effective ad, and for the designer, a more relevant, helpful user experience.

With users gaining control over the ads they see, advertisers must work harder to make their ads count. Here’s a detailed breakdown of why ads might be less effective than before, presented in simplified bullet points:

  • Banner Blindness: Too many banners make users ignore them. Seeing ads all the time makes users ignore their presence.
  • Ad Blockers: Users want control over their data. Ad blockers make websites load faster, giving a better online experience.Right Section Blindness: Users often ignore ads on the right. Design patterns make the right side seem less important.
  • Ad Saturation: Too many ads frustrate users. Full-screen mobile ads disrupt the experience, making users unhappy.
  • Intrusiveness and Relevance: Ads not matching user needs are seen as annoying. Ads interrupting the user’s journey make them less happy online.

Once upon a time, ads were the loud neighbors you couldn’t ignore. Today, they’re becoming more like the friendly local shopkeeper who knows your name and what you like. Ads are getting smarter, more relevant, and, believe it or not, less annoying. Yet, a lot is still needs to be done!

The future is all about targeted, non-disruptive ads that appear only when they’re likely to be welcome. Here are some examples:

Promotions: Like getting a discount offer on an item that complements what you’re buying.

Dedicated Pages: Profiles for brands that you can visit for more information, at your leisure.

Strategic Banner Placements: These are placed in spots where you’re already looking, like when you’re about to order food.

Best ad placement for user experience

Just as crucial as what type of ads you display is where you place your ads. Following the industry’s best practices will help you position ads to have the smallest negative impact on the user experience.

Balancing content and ads

One of the most critical aspects of ad placement is maintaining a balance between content and advertisements. Overloading a page or an app with ads can distract users from the content they came for and slow down loading times, making the user experience less smooth and enjoyable. 

When considering the balance between content and ads, UX designers should ensure ads do not disrupt the flow of content or navigation. Ads should be clearly distinguishable from content yet integrated seamlessly into the design of the site or app to maintain aesthetic appeal. Try placing them after the table of contents at the top of a long article or after the end of a blog post.

Avoid intrusive ad formats

Users respond to only some ad formats the same way. Some formats frustrate users because they inhibit site navigation or make the content hard to read or understand. Pop-up ads that cover the content, auto-playing video ads with sound, or interstitial ads that appear before the user can access the desired content all disrupt the user flow and distract attention from the value.

Avoid using intrusive ad formats whenever possible. Instead, opt for less disruptive formats like banners or native ads that blend seamlessly with the content. These ads can be placed strategically to catch the user’s eye without interrupting their activity.

Place ads in line with content

Often, the best-performing webpage or app ads are placed within the content or at the end of an article. These ads appear naturally along the path of the user’s consumption rather than interrupting their experience.

In-line ads are less disruptive than other ad formats. Users can continue to scroll and read without having to close or navigate around the ad. Another advantage of in-line ads is that they can be contextually relevant. Because they’re placed within the content, they can be tied to its subject matter, making them more relevant and interesting to the user.

Consider user accessibility

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. On digital platforms, accessibility ensures that all users, including those with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive disabilities, can access and interact with the content.

To improve accessibility in ad placement, organizations should follow web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines provide many recommendations for making web content more accessible. They include providing text alternatives for non-text content, ensuring content can be presented in different ways without losing information, making it easier for users to see and hear content, and making all functionality available from a keyboard

Final Words

Overusing ads throughout digital experiences can overwhelm, annoy, and frustrate users. An ad experience that feels more burdensome than frictionless makes users less likely to engage with the ad content and less likely to use the site or app. The future of digital ads must prioritize user experience by innovating new technologies and creating immersive experiences that don’t feel intrusive or disruptive. Organizations will continue personalizing ads, making them more relevant to their audience.

Transparency is another trend that will continue to shape the future of advertising as users demand more control and understanding over how their data is used for targeted ads. Organizations will also prioritize offering ad customization options to users, giving them more control over their ad experience.

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