User Experience Rules for Online Advertisements and Pop-Ups in Web Design

We’ve all experienced it (excuse the pun). You click a link eager to devour the juicy content that’s been promised on the other side. Your mouse cursor hovers over the play button expectantly and then BANG, you have to look at an annoying advertisement first. ‘Sign up to our mailing list’, ‘buy this’, ‘click here’, ‘These miracle pills will make you…’, actually, nevermind that last one. It’s enough to turn anybody off a website and unsurprisingly it regularly does.

Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t advertise on your website and pop ups that are used effectively can generate real results for a business, but there are certain web design rules you should follow. Think of visitors to your website as though they’re a guest in your actual home. Imagine inviting someone into your home and just as they step through the doorframe and begin taking off their coat you start bombarding them with marketing messages. It’s just plain rude! You make them a cup of tea first and make some polite conversation, even if you don’t really care about their Great Aunt Sylvia’s worrying bunion problem.

Foot deformities aside, there are a number of best practices that will allow you to display ads without ruining your website’s user experience. We’ve noted some of the most important ones here:

Don’t interrupt visitors from achieving their objectives

Sure, it might get more eyeballs on your advertisements if you forcibly put them in front of your visitors. Equally, you’d get more coverage if you ran down the high street pushing leaflets and print advertisements into people’s bemused faces like some maniacal marketer that’s completely and utterly lost the plot. It’s more likely that it will turn visitors off your website and even the message in the advertisement itself, possibly for good!

Be careful with auto playing audio and video ads

This one is particularly painful to experience and terrible web design, especially if you open multiple links at once only to be met with a chorus of advertisements singing the song of their people. You don’t need to be a genius to understand that this is irritating and incredibly off putting, especially if you were listening to a great song that has been rudely interrupted by an advertisement for Hoover bags (do Hoover bags still exist?!).

Be real, your visitors can probably see through bull#@t

Don’t disguise your advertisements as something they’re not and always deliver on your promises. Adding anchor text that suggests your visitor be treated to valuable intelligence when really it’s a link to an ad is the online equivalent of finding out your McDonalds order is wrong once you get home. Make sure any advertisements on your website are marked clearly if they’re good quality ads it shouldn’t matter and misdirection won’t be needed anyway!

Time your pop ups properly

As previously mentioned, pop ups can be a great tool for marketers. For example, if someone is reading your blog posts they might well want to subscribe to your mailing list and get alerts for new content. However, timing a pop-up to appear at the beginning of a post before they’re read a single word is annoying, multiple pop-ups are even worse. Keep it to one per visit and maybe time it so that they have already read at least one piece of content before asking for their email address. You wouldn’t ask a stranger for their number immediately would you?

Forget about gated content and pre-registrations

Unless your website is a paid subscription service, don’t ask people to sign up to see your content. It will likely lose you a large chunk of your potential audience as they have no idea what kind of quality lurks beneath your intrusive subscribe pop-up. If your content is good quality, entertaining and useful then visitors will happily fork over their emails. This is the internet, not passport control!

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but the key thing to remember is that your audience online is valuable and you should always treat them as such. It may seem tempting to sacrifice a few visitors for some short term ad revenue, but in the long run, those who provide an exceptional user experience will always come out on top.

For more information on user experience and best practice online, please feel free to give us a shout. Our expert team can help to ensure you're providing an intuitive and user friendly website for your visitors.

Give us a call on 01254 878956 or email