My company's users use a website that features advertising from specific sponsors. The ads are all directly related to the content of the page and the situation in which the user is viewing the page -- a situation which they paid for. We frequently use a lot of background advertising, but the UX team is curious about its effects on user experience.

Does anyone knows of good, recent research on online advertising and its effects on user experience that includes background advertising? Books, blog posts, or papers are all welcome. It seems that most of the articles out there are still focused on banner and pop-up ads.

And yeah, we'll probably do our own user testing in the near future. We'd still like to see if there is any outside research, best practices, or recommendations.

  • Have to say that example makes my eyes hurt (: So much going on ... how can a user tell the wood from the trees. My only rule of thumb with advertising is keep it in fairly contained area... so the user can distinguish the content from the advertising. – Lisa Tweedie Jun 11 '12 at 23:57
  • Your comment presents another concern of ours: that although the ads are relevant, they could be too distracting or irritating. – Naa Marteki Reed Jun 21 '12 at 17:34
  • I think the only way to check is to user test them. On this very unrepresentive sample of one I would say they are... but there is nothing like good hard data (: – Lisa Tweedie Jun 21 '12 at 18:18

The important issues for UX are whether the advertising (which is there for your benefit and the advertiser's, not for the user's) impedes their ability to use the site successfully.

  • Background advertising that is too prominent may confuse the user, thinking they are at the wrong page.
  • If it blends into the content too much, it may induce banner blindness of important content for your site.
  • If it is too large and delays the presentation of the content, it may frustrate users who expect snappy response to their clicks.

While I do not have research about background advertising in general, there is a lot of research available on these more general topics. Remember that advertising is, usually, at the detriment of the user experience. The question rarely 'how can I use advertising to improve the UX', but 'how can I monetize my site without overly harming the UX'.

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  • Thanks! You presented points that it is always good to be reminded of. Your last two bullets are relevant to our particular site, and we'll be incorporating them into our best practices/guidelines on this issue. Now, I guess we should do our own testing and publish it. :-) – Naa Marteki Reed Jun 21 '12 at 17:32

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