Online Advertising vs User Experience

15 Apr 2009 - 3:46am
3 years ago
11 replies
5050 reads

Hi All,

We often end up in a debate with our clients who are desperate for
earning some extra revenue by adding new advertising spots on the

How much ever we hate it, we end up trying to create a balance. It is
often the only source of revenue for many content based sites.

I am currently doing a research on how to deal with advertising with
minimum compromise on user experience.

Do we have any research / guidelines / best practices supporting the
same? How can we explain them the user experience point of view.


Ankit Shekhawat


15 Apr 2009 - 4:23am
AJ Kock

I am going to play the Devil's Advocate here for a second and ask:
"Why is advertising seen as bad user experience?" If users didn't want
ads, why is Google making money? What leads to a bad user experience
is untimely and out of context advertising, but not advertising per se.

15 Apr 2009 - 4:25am
viki pandit

>From my experience, most of the times user experience has to give way
to the Promo spots. Clients generally want as much as possible ad
spots to generate revenue. Sometimes if seems very funny when sites
are stacked up with too many ads. My common sense says people just
wont click ads if they look like the classifieds page, but its tough
convincing otherwise.

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Posted from the new

15 Apr 2009 - 4:31am
viki pandit

@AJKock I dont think we are taking about giving up the ads but about
not making the compromise to giving more space and importance to ads
than the content. Optimum relevant Ads do enhance the user experience
but too many can spoil the same.

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Posted from the new

15 Apr 2009 - 4:50am
Frank Long

A bit of lateral thinking here...

Through our user research we found that 3 column web pages don't
really work - Users tend to ignore the third column...which makes it
a perfect place to slot in unwanted ads...ala facebook.

It wont effect the User experience as users will not notice content
in this area of the page -

you gain ad space without negative user impact!

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Posted from the new

15 Apr 2009 - 6:31am
Mark Schraad


One of the problems you will likely encounter is both cultural (to
the org) and semantic. Try to define what constitutes the user
experience. And for a frustrating exercise, try to establish metric
for that. Then, survey your stakeholders to determine what they think
the user experience is... or what a good one is. This is at the root
of the problem.

There is little consensus... you will find very few people that won't
tell you of the importance of the user experience... yet those same
people will quickly compromise it in exchange for revenue. Look at
what has become in recent years. Far from its position as a
quality information site of years ago... it is basically a search
engine magnet with little if any usable content. User experience (and
content) have taken a back seat to revenue.

There are also places where the two overlap. When you observe or
research readers looking through the travel section of a newspaper...
you will notice that the advertisements, to a great extent, are the
content. This revenue vs experience issue is not as cut and dry as it
may seem.


15 Apr 2009 - 11:36am
Katie Albers

I suspect this is analogous to "banner blindness" and that the 3rd
column invisibility is the effect of the frequent ads there, but it
exists now, for whatever reason, you may as well use it.


Katie Albers
Founder & Principal Consultant
User Experience Strategy & Project Management
310 356 7550
katie at

15 Apr 2009 - 11:44am
Frank Long


its to do with F pattern reading behaviour.

you can see more info here


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Posted from the new

15 Apr 2009 - 12:50pm
Phil Chung

You probably want to clarify first how your clients are getting paid -- clearly, that will help determine optimal ad placement. Putting
ads in the "third column" makes sense if you only care about page
views not click through rates (e.g. affiliate programs).

> you gain ad space without negative user impact!

24 Dec 2010 - 11:25pm

I actually never feel you're overwhelming the balance between them. But try selling links in content. Many websites are willing to purchase that for high price, depending on the Page Rank of the page and the niche you write about. You have hundreds of good pages here.. Imagine selling just $50/3 months for each. You can make that your primary source of income, while the side-bar ads become a secondary (since it's likely to earn you much less).

Free Advertising Analyst


29 Aug 2012 - 2:01am

That's another different story, but most web base company names prefer the quality of the user experiences from the advertising strategy alone. Online advertising, when we say it is just simple as it is, however, many may end up loosing investment. After all sales is better than revenue.

18 Sep 2012 - 9:51pm

What is the discussion? If the business reason for the site is to generate revenue from ads or to generate leads then the UX Designer's job is to makre that a usable experience. IT'S THE JOB. Yes, if it's not usable then the site will fail. But if it doesn't meet revenue goals it is also a failure. Marketing is NOT the enemy. THEY ARE THE CLIENT.

If marketing doesn't yet get UXD you are working for dinosaurs. In the largest global digital agencies with Fortune 100 clients the Marketing client is the guy usually pushing the Account Manager for MORE usability.

You have two missions: educate the client and create the most usable damn site ever deployed on the web. Fail in either you fail altogether. Enjoy.

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