What is Banner Blindness? + 11 Clever Methods to Avoid It

When was the last time you paid attention to a banner ad?

Can’t really recall, or never?

Well, exactly. Imagine the thousands of banners laid out in the websites you’ve wandered in, and only a very small percentage of them really made an impression, right?

It’s because you’re usually blind to banners, and chances are, your customers are blind to your banners too. To overcome this problem, designers and marketers have utilized various practices and in this article, I’ll go over what banner blindness is and how you can overcome it with ease.

What is a Banner Ad? 

A banner ad is a graphical box of advertising material placed on web pages to promote commercial goods and services. This form of advertising is more often used in websites and less so in search engine results. Banner ads are most commonly associated with internet-related industries, such as online shopping, technology, entertainment, finance, and real estate.

Have you ever had a banner ad in front of your face and were not even able to see it? Then you’re one of the many people who suffer from “banner blindness.”

What is Banner Blindness? 

Banner blindness, also known as advert or ad blindness, is the phenomenon that occurs when people ignore or avoid banner ads. This happens because they often feel a sense of annoyance for the page. They are usually distracted by other content on the page and do not respond to banners.

According to a study by Infolinks, 86% of consumers experience banner blindness.

Banner blindness is a term that was coined in 1998 as a result of website usability tests. It is based on an eye-tracking experiment. When people are looking at a banner, they look past it rather than directly at it. Readers tend to see banners as annoying and worthless, which may lead to banner blindness.

Why would you even need to take this concept seriously?

Let’s take a look at some banner blindness statistics.

According to Statista, ad spending in digital marketing is predicted to reach US$398,762m in 2021.

What’s more, you are more likely to survive a plane crash than click a banner ad.

Ouch!

These statistics add up to one thing: Most digital marketers are wasting money on ghost banner ads people will never click (except by mistake.)

Also, it is no different with mobile ad banners. Up to 50% of clicks on mobile ad banners are a result of accidental taps.

The good news is you can avoid banner blindness!

Just use proven techniques and strategies to ensure that your banners get seen. We will give you the tricks to minimize banner blindness and maximize conversions, but first, you should understand why users ignore banner ads.

what is banner blindness

Why We Tend to Ignore Banner Ads While Browsing

In banner blindness, the revisited user dodge ads on mobile and desktop. Users simply avoid banners or anything that looks like an ad. 

So, why might it be so?

Probably, it is because banners have no control over how they are displayed on a website. They are usually displayed in fixed dimensions, at a fixed position on a web page, and given a fixed color. This rigid format cannot help but feel repetitive after a while.

Other than this, several factors contribute to banner blindness. 

  • The first factor is our pre-existing intention. Readers already know where to go on the page and don’t need a banner to tell them this. 
  • The second factor is called the “informational scent.” Instead of reading each word in a banner, time-pressured readers tend to scan it for relevant information. 
  • The third factor is an interruption effect whereby readers’ attention is interrupted by something else on the page.

Are these all factors there are?

Of course not. Let’s look at the factors that could cause or contribute to banner blindness in detail.

1- Location

The location of the banner has an unmistakable effect on the users.

And like many other user behaviors on the web, viewers learn to skip the banner part of a webpage. This is because they have browsed a lot of websites that displayed a banner ad. Users expect the layout of any webpage to be the same and get accustomed to it. Hence, banner blindness.

2- Ad Clutter

Another reason behind ad blindness is the number of advertisements on a webpage.

If there is a clutter of banner ads, popup ads, text ads, and links on a webpage, users often lose their focus. Too many ads cause sensory overload and annoy visitors. Eventually, they lead them to ignore the ads altogether and focus solely on what they came for; the content. 

3- Visuality and Ad Style

The typical look of ads or poorly designed ads annoy visitors.

As we mentioned before, ignoring ads is a learned behavior. Therefore, users have a conscious or unconscious knowledge of how ads look, and they simply dodge them. 

Here’s how it works:

Website visitors “know” that ads often look different from the main content of a webpage. And it doesn’t matter if it is a banner ad or an inline ad. For example, if the ad has these qualities:

  • Fancy formatting: different font, font color, etc.,
  • A colored background that sets the ad aside from the main content,
  • Text embedded in the image, which is  how ads generally look,

These will leave the viewers the impression that it is a useless ad, and they will skip it at light speed. Mind that it won’t matter whether your ad is actually a useful one because, most likely, it won’t be seen.

4- Perceived Usefulness

Target audience, folks. Target audience.

If you display your ad to the wrong audience, they will ignore it. Advertisements that are irrelevant to the users will only be seen as annoying and boring. Never forget that viewers’ responsiveness is closely related to personalization. 

5- Ads Drag Down the Adjacent Elements Too

Improperly-placed ads are poisonous.

They cause other elements of the webpage content to be ignored with them. Content that is placed on the same part of the screen as ads are often considered to be an ad and skipped. 

As we can see from the facts above, banners are problematic to advertisers. We need a way to avoid banner blindness and grab attention quickly. 

Keep on reading to find out some smart methods to overcome ad blindness

How to Avoid Banner Blindness and Get Your Ads Noticed

Now that you know the answer to “what is banner blindness” and the factors that cause it, you can guess how users feel about them. Better yet, you might have already experienced it yourself. 

Both visitors and readers can become visually overloaded when a site is cluttered with too many banners. They may just give up and leave your page. On the other hand, if your header is sleek and professional, it will impress your readers more.

With over 1.7 billion websites and over 4 billion users searching the web every day, the competition to reach new customers is fierce. Even with banner blindness, you need advertisements to reach your target audience and drive sales.

It all comes down to one question; how do we fight banner blindness?

It is important to remember that if you have an excellent ad that sells itself, the banner won’t be a problem.

A bad one?

The less you look at it, the better!

This may cause you to miss out on converting prospects into buyers. The only way to avoid banner blindness is by using some clever tricks like:

1- Stop Making Your Content Look Like Ads

You may think that making the ad content look different from the rest of a webpage draws attention and increases sales. But that’s hardly the case.

It often leads to the opposite effect, and visitors ignore such ads.

So, you should choose the color, font, type, background, and overall content style carefully.

2- Test Out Different Locations and Sizes

As we stressed before, the standard location of display banner ads often results in banner blindness. Website owners usually use ads as:

  • 728 × 90 leaderboards and 300 × 250 rectangles
  • Placed on top of the content or the right sidebar.

Do they work?

Nope.

You can test out unconventional locations and sizes to get your visitors’ attention and stick to the one that gives the best click-through rate.

3- Design to Capture Eyes

A captivating design can grab a viewer’s attention and lead to conversion.

On the other hand, if you use poorly designed ads with annoying colors, irritating font, and cheap design, you may lose credibility. Here’s a couple of tips you can take as a guide:

  1. Keep the design of your ads simple.
  2. Pay attention to the design hierarchy. Place the elements from the most important to the least. This applies to the font hierarchy as well. 
  3. You may consider playing with the size of the element in an ad picture.

 E.g., say you want to draw attention to a product in an advertisement image, but the image contains other elements besides the product. 

In such a case, play with the size of the product’s image. Make a specific element larger to highlight it. This is called the principle of proximity in web design.

Mind the contrast ratio.

Make your ad background color contrasting with your website’s color scheme. This may not always work, especially if you overdo your ad design. Keep the overall design simple and choose contrasting colors to draw attention.

4- Hook with a Catchy CTA

The message of your ads matters.

So, the answer to a question like “what is the most crucial element to break through banner blindness?” would definitely be clear messaging.

When writing your ad copy, ask yourself, “what do I want to achieve with my ad?”

Then, create a CTA that clearly conveys your message. A successful call to action should guide users and prompt them to take the desired action.

5- Separate Ads from the Content

Try not to mix content with ads in the same visual section. Otherwise, visitors may ignore the content along with the ads.

According to the Gestalt law of proximity, items, objects, and shapes close to each other are often assumed to be part of a group. 

It happens when users are scanning to find the content they are looking for based on the information scent we mentioned before. If one of the items seems completely irrelevant, they will assume that the entire section is irrelevant to their goal and stop interacting with it altogether and fall into ad blindness.

6- Consider 3D Photo Ads

Unlike traditional banner ads, 3D display ads enable users to interact with an animated 3D object, product, or image inside the display area.

Users can move, spin, or in some cases, customize the product image in real-time. So, while flat banner ads cause banner blindness, 3D banner ads can convert.

7- Implement Native Ads

Native ads are ads implemented within the online feed content. Native ads can be:

  • Text ads in a social feed,
  • Graphic ads within mobile apps,
  • Short video ads played between the episodes of tv series.

A study by Infolinks showed that implemented native ads were seen 47% faster than traditional banner ads. This refers to a higher viewability, which is a strong measurement for ad campaigns.

Check out our guide for in-app marketing: A Definitive Guide to In-App Marketing.

8- Go with the “F Pattern”

A conducted study by renowned web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen revealed much about viewers’ dominant reading patterns.

His eye-tracking experiment showed that webpage visitors tend to scan it in an F-shaped pattern. 

Most people who visit a webpage start to scan it from the top left of the page to the right. Keep this pattern in mind when placing your ad on the page to increase viewability and conversions.

9- Interactive Advertisement 

Interactive ads invite users to interact with the ad and drive more engagement.

Some of the interactive advertisement examples are:

  • Playable ads
  • Interactive video ads
  • 3D ads
  • AR ads

Here’s one example of an interactive ads campaign by Honda.

10- Invest in Video Advertisement

Internet users find watching videos more engaging than reading texts.

You can use this to your advantage and invest in a video advertisement. Don’t forget to run your video advert on Facebook and Youtube to collect more engagement and reach a wider audience. 

It is usually recommended to keep commercial videos under 60 seconds. Longer videos can be engaging as well, as long as you have a good story to tell. However, before getting your hands in video advertisement, you should make sure the video quality is, well, awesome.

Here’s a short video advertisement by Amazon below. It is enjoyable, high in quality, and it has received a great engagement:

11- Test, Test, Test

To make sure your ads fight with banner blindness and beat it, you should test different options.

Try A/B testing to see which of your ads receives higher engagement.

Conclusion

Banner blindness is a life-threatening issue for webmasters, bloggers, designers, and marketers, even though users ignore it (that’s the whole point.)

But don’t let ad blindness discourage your efforts. Try out the tips we gave above and keep testing until you hit the mark!


Frequently Asked Questions


How can I stop banner blindness?

In order to stop banner blindness, you should both improve the copy of your advert and the design to make it more noticeable. Avoiding being too salesy, and minding contrast in the design help the most.


How to design an advert banner?

An advert banner can be created using different visual design tools, the easiest one being Canva. To generate the best results, it should avoid being salesy and appear friendly and interesting.

Mert Aktas

Mert is the Marketing Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that 2000+ companies trust in their user onboarding.