How to make a truly awful banner ad

26Aug09

I’ve seen some really terrible banner ads lately. Here are some of the offending design elements, though I hesitate to even use the word “design” in reference to such junk:

– Before and after pictures that obviously aren’t from the same person (that is, unless weight loss pills also give you a makeover and a golden tan)
– Script-style fonts that are impossible to read (not to mention looking really dated)
– A disclaimer box that takes up more than half the ad (and scrolls through several pages of fine print on its own)

Banner ads have been around for more than a decade, so you would think that a reasonable set of best practices would have been adopted by now. But I believe something different has happened. Due to the low value that many firms put on good creative and design, I bet these ads were put together by the lowest bidder — maybe a chop shop in a low-wage country. Heck, the people who made the ads might not even speak the language they’re writing in. That’s certainly a recipe for poor results.

When you think about it, many cities have visual style guidelines for billboards and other outdoor advertising. Magazines and newspapers surely exert some control over which types of ads they’ll accept. With the proliferation of ugly banner ads, maybe webmasters should pay closer attention to the ads that are gracing — or polluting — their sites.



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