The importance of banner blindness

Design | Development | Marketing - 24th April 2018
By Michaela Dvořáková

It is said that an average person in the city is exposed to more than 4000 ads every day. This number is very hard to process, so our brains focus only on those ads, that are relevant for us at the time.

In 1994 there was a start of a big phenomena called banners. The first banner was placed on a website and it triggered a new era of on-line advertising. Other banners followed, until it became a very widespread advertisement channel. Banners and other forms of online ads are almost everywhere on the internet. It took four years for the first study to be conducted. In 1998 Jan P. Benway, David M. Lane have described a behavioral pattern, which they called “banner blindness”. They have basically explained how almost three quarters of web users look for the information they need only in the middle column of websites, because they are used to the fact that on the right side there is a column with advertisement banner, which they are alomost never interested in. Many experiments with the users were conducted and their results showed that people could not find the information they need, when it is placed in the banner on the right side of the page.

From all the research we can specify three features which impact what the users tend to ignore. First one is the placement. Everything on the top of the page and in the right rail seems to irrelevant for an average user, who is just browsing the web to find something they need to know.

Secondly, it is influenced by the visual features. A lot of banners are in animated form, therefore users also tend to avoid looking at animations. Last but not least is the resemblance to actual ads.

In the past, it was very likely to find the banner in the right rail of the website. The development of websites has gone a long way since, so nowadays ads can be found everywhere and users have noticed that too. This fact leads to a higher carefulness while scanning the website and thus more ignorance to what might be a relevant content. Users tend to skip everything, which looks differently from the rest of the content. For example, when there is a website that is mostly red, they would skip a box which would be green. Their brain would automatically think that it is about a completely different topic than the rest of the website. 

The same thing is affecting mobile apps, which can be full of banners too. As more and more people are using those apps, it has became quite popular within the advertisers. Again, our brains had no other option than starting to filter what we see and what we focus on.

It is essential for many websites to benefit from these banners. On the other hand it is important to think about the users when developing any websites and to always keep in mind that they might skip important content we want them to read when the webdesign is not elaborated and tested thoroughly to get the best user experience. 

Written by
Michaela Dvořáková
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