Top 10 Design Mistakes: #8

30 Jun 2010

Time to continue my top ten list of web site pet peeves – and we’re in at number 8 with something that requires a little bit of balance, because for many sites, it’s a requirement, it’s the only way they really are able to provide the content that they do, for the price we pay…

#8 – Advertising Is A Reality, Sometimes

Somebody once said, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  And the web is no different, someone has to pay for the content that we’re consuming online, whether it’s through me doing this in my own time, and paying for my own hosting, or by showing ads on a page, it takes time and money to create good content.  At this point, I think everyone has accepted that for many of the sites we look at each day, we’re going to see ads in addition to the content.  And when done at a reasonable level, I don’t have a problem with that – especially if the ads are targeted at me, so that I’m not seeing ads for products that aren’t really of much interest to me.

One of my favorite examples of a site with too many ads is The Diesel Stop forumsdieselstop1.  It’s a site for fans of Ford trucks – lots of great community conversations, sharing of information, all the stuff that you’d expect from a forum site.  A little while ago, they did a re-design, and added a few ads to their site.  And by few, I mean, that I have to scroll over 740 pixels down my page before I can see any real content!  740 pixels!  Imagine how that looks on a netbook!

As you build out your website, it’s really important to remember what is driving people to your site, is it the content or the ads that people want to look at?  I’d be willing to bet that they’re probably not coming to your site to look at the ads!  One of the important things that you need to do is find a balance – content vs. ads. 

overlay-ad1Another one of my pet peeves is blocking ads, ads that sit in front of the site and force you to close them before you can view the content – again, users are coming to your site for content, and ads are a way to help you subsidize your content.  Making it hard for users to get to content is going to discourage them from coming back. 

Then there are other options besides the regular ads – ask yourself when visiting a website, have you trained yourself to look past the typical ad locations and shapes that look like ads?  I know I’ve gotten myself pretty well trained to ignore certain places on a page or certain shapes!  The person who figures out an innovative, and unobtrusive way to get ads on a page is going to make a lot of money!

nytimesOne site that has found a way to do that is the New York Times – it’s a site that I really appreciate for it’s design and layout.  They’ve done a number of things to put ads on the page, make them flow nicely into the page so that they catch my eye but don’t feel obtrusive or obnoxious.

Best Practice Suggestions

  • Make your content the primary subject of your site, it’s what drives people to your site!
  • Don’t hide content with ads and make users work to get to your content, they’ll remember that and go to other places where it’s easier to find the content they’re looking for!

Summary

Remember what drives people to your site, make the content the strong point, and integrate the ads into your site in a way that fits, putting too many ads on a page will drive people away!If you’re using an ad network like AdSense or pubCenter, be sure to read through their tips and tricks, they’re interested in helping you make money, because it helps them make money! Be creative! Figure out how to be a little different – be the person who finds the next advertising opportunity.    

Don’t Forget: If I pick on your website, I apologize! It’s meant as a learning opportunity for both of us, and I’m happy to help you move from my offending list, to my best practices list! I’ve only shared a few of my favorites in this blog post, and there are plenty more out there! What are some of your favorites? Leave your favorite offending sites in the your comments! For designers who may be reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments! What bugs you, what makes your life hard when working with web developers?