Banner blindness

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Standard web banner ad sizes

Banner blindness is a phenomenon in web usability where visitors to a website consciously or subconsciously ignore banner-like information, which can also be called ad blindness or banner noise.

The term "banner blindness" was coined by Benway and Lane[1] as a result of website usability tests where a majority of the test subjects either consciously or unconsciously ignored information that was presented in banners. Subjects were given tasks to search information on a website. The information that was overlooked included both external advertisement banners and internal navigational banners, e.g. quick links. The placement of the banners on a web page had little effect on whether or not the subjects noticed them. The result of the study contradicted the popular web design guideline that larger, colourful and animated elements on a website are more likely to be seen by users.

However, in older experiment by Bayles[2] the results showed that users generally noticed web banners. This was proven by eye-tracking tests and other means. The experiment concentrated on how users perceived a single web page and what they could recognise and recall of it afterwards. It has been argued that experiments like this without real-world tasks have poor methodology, and produce poor results.[3] Other eye-tracking tests showed different results.[4]

Pagendarm and Schaumburg [5] argued that a possible explanation for the banner blindness phenomenon lay in the way users interacted with websites. Users tend to either search for specific information or aimlessly browse from one page to the next. Users have constructed web related cognitive schemata for different tasks on the web. When searching for specific information on a website, users focus only on the parts of the page where they assume the relevant information will be, e.g. small text and hyperlinks. In particular the study of Hervet et al.[6] shows a new methodological view which must be taken into account. They focus on whether participants actually fixated the ads and how their gaze behaviour is related to memory for the ad. They investigated whether Internet users avoid looking at ads inserted on a non-search website using an analysis of eye movements, and if the ad content is kept in memory. Their results show that most participants fixate the ads at least once during their website visit. Moreover, even though the congruency between the ad and the editorial content had no effect on fixation duration on the ad, congruent ads were better memorised than incongruent ads.

Later empirical studies focus on e.g. the role of animation or effects of personalized banner ads. Lee, Anh and Park[7] find that animations signal the users the existence of ads and lead to ad avoidance behavior, but after repetitive exposures they induce positive user attitude through the mere exposure effect. Results of the study Koster et al.[8] confirm that personalization enhances recognition for the content of banners while the effect on attention was weaker and partially nonsignificant. In contrast, overall exploration of web pages and recognition of task-relevant information was not influenced. The temporal course of fixations revealed that visual exploration of banners typically proceeds from the picture to the logo and finally to the slogan.

Bad marketing and ads that are not correctly targeted make it more likely for consumers to ignore banners that aim at capturing their attention. This phenomenon called 'purposeful blindness' shows that consumers can adapt fast and become good at ignoring marketing messages that are not relevant to them.[9] It is a byproduct of inattentional blindness. Large, colourful or animated banners and other graphics are in this case ignored. Usability tests that compared the perception of banners between groups of subjects searching for specific information and subjects aimlessly browsing seem to support this theory - see study.[5] A similar conclusion can be drawn from the study of Ortiz-Chaves et al.[10] dealt with how right-side graphic elements (in contrast to purely textual) in Google AdWords affect users' visual behavior. So the study is focused on people that search something. The analysis concludes that the appearance of images does not change user interaction with ads.

In the scientific literature, there are also suggestions how to tackle banner blindness. Zouharova, Zouhar and Smutny present approach using cognitive-behavioral assumption on the basis of which banner display strategy is adapted.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Benway, J. P.; Lane, D. M. (1998). "Banner Blindness: Web Searchers Often Miss 'Obvious' Links" (PDF). Internet Technical Group, Rice University. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  2. ^ Bayles, M. (2000). "Just How 'Blind' Are We to Advertising Banners on the Web?". Wichita State University. Software Usability Research Lab. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  3. ^ Nielsen, J. (2007). "Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings". Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  4. ^ Lubin, G.; Hudson, H. (2014). "29 Eye-Tracking Heatmaps Reveal Where People Really Look". Business Insider. Business Insider Inc. Retrieved July 15, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Pagendarm, M.; Schaumburg, H. (2001). "Why Are Users Banner-Blind? The Impact of Navigation Style on the Perception of Web Banners". Journal of Digital Information. 2 (1). 
  6. ^ Hervet, G.; Guerard, K.; Tremblay, S.; Chtourou, M. S. (2011). "Is Banner Blindness Genuine? Eye Tracking Internet Text Advertising". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 25 (5): 708–716. doi:10.1002/acp.1742. 
  7. ^ Lee, J.; Ahn, J. H.; Park, B. (2015). "The effect of repetition in Internet banner ads and the moderating role of animation". Computers in Human Behavior. 46: 202–209. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.008. 
  8. ^ Koster, M.; Ruth, M.; Hambork, K. C.; Kaspar, K. C. (2015). "Effects of Personalized Banner Ads on Visual Attention and Recognition Memory". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 29 (2): 181–192. doi:10.1002/acp.3080. 
  9. ^ de Ternay, Guerric (2016). "Purposeful Blindness: How Customers Dodge Your Ads". BoostCompanies. Retrieved March 28, 2016. 
  10. ^ Ortiz-Chaves, L.; et al. (2014). "AdWords, images, and banner blindness: an eye-tracking study". El Profesional de la Información. 23 (3): 279–287. doi:10.3145/epi.2014.may.08. 
  11. ^ Zouharova, M.; Zouhar, J.; Smutny, Z. (2016). "A MILP approach to the optimization of banner display strategy to tackle banner blindness". Central European Journal of Operations Research. 24 (2): 473–488. doi:10.1007/s10100-015-0398-3.