Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Online Ads: The Good And The Bad

"You people should be ashamed of yourself! I did not ask to have 3 pop ups come across my screen when I visit you.

I do not visit singles sites, and I don't want to add 4 inches to my penis.

As a matter of fact, I don't use any of the services that pop up on my screen. I think it is disgusting that you money hungry bastards have infringed on my computer for your own selfish gain.

From this moment on, I am boycotting you, and I am advising EVERYONE I know to do the same thing. Down with you and your pop up ads."


This is a recorded spontaneous comment of one of the over 600 hundred testers that have participated in a recent survey analyzing the effect that ad strategies have on Web readers.

At the recent User Experience 2004 conference, John Boyd from Yahoo! and Christian Rohrer from eBay presented a large body of research on how users perceive online advertising.

Sites that accept advertising should think twice before accepting ads that 80 to 90% of users strongly dislike. The resulting drop in customer satisfaction will damage your long-term prospects. Studies of how people react to online advertisements have identified several design techniques that impact the user experience very negatively.

According to the data, not many ads are actively loved by users, but some advertising techniques do have a positive impact on the user experience. Web users like ads that clearly:

  • indicate what will happen if people click on them,

  • relate to what people are doing online,

  • identify themselves as advertisements,

  • present information about what they are advertising,
  • and
  • provide additional information without having to leave the page.

What web readers REALLY dislike are instead:



  • Pop-ups

  • Slow-loading pages

  • "Teasing" links, misleading categories, other elements that trick users into clicking

  • Content that doesn't clearly state the site's purpose or what a particular page covers

  • Missing "Close" button

  • Ad covering main content

  • Ad moving or floating across the screen

  • Oversized ad occupying most of screen estate

  • Ad blinking or flashing

  • Ad with sound that starts to play automatically

"Users have started to defend themselves against pop-ups. The percentage of users who report using pop-up or ad-blocking software increased from 26% in April 2003 to 69% in September 2004, which is an astonishing growth rate.

Users not only dislike pop-ups, they transfer their dislike to the advertisers behind the ad and to the website that exposed them to it. In a survey of 18,808 users, more than 50% reported that a pop-up ad affected their opinion of the advertiser very negatively and nearly 40% reported that it affected their opinion of the website very negatively."

These instead, are the key design goals to follow at all times:

  • make the users' options clear,
  • speak plainly, and
  • provide the information users want.

Excerpted from the latest Alertbox issue by Jakob Nielsen.

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posted by Robin Good on Tuesday, December 7 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




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