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I need opinion from UX experts regarding usage of a fix-positioned promo box on a website. This is type of boxes which are floated to one side of the screen and are always displayed not depending on browser size.

In our example, on screen width less than 1280px this box flies over the content and needs to be manually collapsed in order to see the content.

We have a client who designed it and now "wants" it. Another important point is that this box has links to several key pages of our site and is meant to promote company services and increase visitor conversion rate.

Can anyone please point to any articles discussing this sort of design? Also real life examples of sites that use/used such fixed-floated promo boxes would be very interesting.

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Going by your description it sounds like an annoying hindrance, particularly if it persists on low resolution devices. If I "manually collapse" it, does it then reappear on every page I visit? –  Matt Obee Nov 21 '12 at 17:13
    
I think I have a good idea of what you mean from the description, but do you have an image that would demonstrate what you mean? –  dhmholley Nov 21 '12 at 17:14
    
It covers the content for everyone using less than 1280px width screens? You realise that this means around 70% of all users will need to close this option on your site to see the full page content? source:browsersize.googlelabs.com –  JonW Nov 21 '12 at 17:17
    
@Matt Obee Yes, it reappears on every page. there is no tracking cookie which saves status of this box –  Alex Nov 22 '12 at 12:37
    
@dhmholley sorry, I don't think that I can post an example here –  Alex Nov 22 '12 at 12:38

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

A quick search brings up quite a number of papers/studies. Have a look at Google Scholar for links to PDFs that are not behind paywalls, or alternatives to the ones I provide below.

The papers are relatively "old" though (late 2000's). If you look hard enough, you can find enough supporting evidence for or against floating/intrusive ads. These papers from 2006 are very positive about floating ads (among other types of ads):

Do people ever click on floating ads? (Extract of some research by DoubleClick)

Bruner, Rick E. "Best Practices for Optimizing Web Advertising Effectiveness." (2006).

Analysis of DART ("Dynamic Advertising Reporting & Targeting") ad-serving logs shows that more interactive and prominent rich media units have far higher click rates than standard image ads. Figure 6 shows that ads formatted as expandable or inpage units using DART Motif’s rich media platform had more than double the click-rate of image ads, while interstitials (ads, typically large in size, that appear on pages in between two content pages during a user’s surfing session) had more than 10-times the click rate. Motif floating and pop-up ads had close to 50-times the click rates of image ads.

Do people actually notice/remember floating ads? (Abstract appears below)

Shrestha, S. "Does the Intrusiveness of an Online Advertisement Influence User Recall and Recognition." (2006)

This study investigated the effect of the type (banner ad, pop-up ad and floating ad) and state (animated and non-animated) of online advertisements on recall and recognition of the advertisements. It was hypothesized that floating ads, pop-up ads, and animated ads would be easier to recall due to their intrusive nature. Results showed that participants in the pop-up ad and floating ad condition had better recall of the presence of the ad as well as better recognition. Animation did not significantly influence any of these measures.

What do people think of floating ads?

Burns, Kelli S., and Richard J. Lutz. "The function of format: Consumer responses to six on-line advertising formats." Journal of Advertising 35.1 (2006): 53-63.

This paper is quite heavy on statistical analysis, but effectively wanted to determine if there was a relationship between the perception of an ad (is it entertaining, annoying or informative) and the format of the ad (banner, skyskraper, floating etc.) There was strong statistical evidence that the participants in the study viewed floating ads either as entertaining or annoying.

Against floating ads

If it becomes a defensive situation (where you have to prove that people are developing/using ad-blocking software, and therefore may not see the ad), have a look at this:

Krammer, Viktor. "An effective defense against intrusive web advertising." Privacy, Security and Trust, 2008. PST'08. Sixth Annual Conference on. IEEE, 2008.

This 2008 paper provides a more balanced-to-negative view (lots of references in the background section as to the declining effectiveness of online advertising). The author references a paper by Yahoo researchers that looks really interesting:

Intrusiveness, however, is quite subjective and as Yahoo! noted not everyone dislikes online ads. Even the most intrusive ads are enjoyed by a minority of users.

The reference for the Yahoo paper follows. I didn't have the opportunity to look into it in more detail, unfortunately.

C. Rohrer and J. Boyd. The rise of intrusive online advertising and the response of user experience research at yahoo! In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems: Changing our world, changing ourselves (CHI 2004), pages 1085--1086. ACM Press, April 2004.

Hope that helps.

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Hi CJ. This isn't really an answer, it's just a list of links for the OP to go and read. Can you provide a summary of the findings from each of these papers so that this post becomes an answer in its own right, which will also combat link-rot (something that is particularly a problem when it comes to links to PDF files which could be taken down at any time). –  JonW Nov 21 '12 at 17:48
    
Sure. The OP asked for references, so I figured a short list of references would be sufficient. I will try to flesh out why I picked the papers in the first place, hopefully contributing to a well-formed answer. Thanks for letting me know. –  CJ Franken Nov 21 '12 at 17:54
    
Fantastic! Great improvement to the answer, and some really interesting articles there. Looks like floating ads do work (if click-thru's are what you're measuring) but it doesn't seem that people have very good opinions of them. –  JonW Nov 21 '12 at 18:58
    
Yes, it is a very interesting area... you can look at it from so many different fields of study. The most interesting work (for me at least) is done in predicting click-through rates using machine learning. Basically, given a textual ad (a short sentence or two), determine how cost-effective it will be before I pay for it. (Did I phrase my ad in a way that guarantees a lot of people will click on it?). But that is moving off-topic... –  CJ Franken Nov 21 '12 at 19:05
    
A really great list of references, way more than I expected. Thank you. I just wonder whether the verdict "Annoying but effective" is correct? Subjectevly, it seems that since 2008-2009 more websited used such floating boxes, but these days I don't see them very often. Is it so? If it is, then there should be a reason for this. –  Alex Nov 22 '12 at 13:31

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