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I'm designing an app for a client that's geared for college students. I can't give specifics as to what the app does, so I'll do my best to frame the question.

As part of this app, each participating college will have a dedicated page on the website with a a type of interactive calendar for the students at that college. However, this client's revenue model includes advertising from local businesses. The ads need to go on the same page as this calendar.

Here's a basic wireframe: enter image description here

The client wants users to scroll through the ads to get to the calendar. (There may be 5-7 rows of ads.) Thinking of the students, I think that's bad for usability, but naturally, the advertisers do want the students to see the ads.

...So, I'd like suggestions. I did think of placing the ads and calendar in adjacent half-columns, but the calendar does need full-width real estate.

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    if the calendar needs to be full width, and the ads need to be seen, what solution is there other than what you already have? – Dan Nov 9 '15 at 20:39
  • Do all the ads need to be seen at the same time? Maybe the ads could appear randomly, one at a time. – JeromeR Nov 9 '15 at 21:29
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    Do you think you can make a case for 1 row of ads shown in a carousel? If you scroll lock it, the carousel will always be visible while the student interacts with the calendar, and this can give you a compelling case for using it, as it exposes students to the ad for much longer (their entire session) than scrolling through rows of ads. – R. Barzell Nov 10 '15 at 2:20
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    5-7 rows of ads. That client really wants this app to fail, don't they? That "Interactive Feature" had better be incredibly useful, or required I guess. For the brave students which decide to use the app more than once; they will simply identify the ads as cannon fodder and merely skip over them even if a new add appears. – MonkeyZeus Nov 10 '15 at 15:29
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    Yeah, god-speed and good luck! Just make sure you get paid, lol – MonkeyZeus Nov 11 '15 at 1:49
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You need to push back against whoever is rooting for the advertisements hard. An advertisement has to be seen to be of any value. No successful app has the primary function of displaying ads (broad generalization, but mostly true). By making the user scroll past the ads to get main function of the app, you're pretty much guaranteeing the user will do that: scroll right past the ads, notably without reading or clicking on any of them.

Also, displaying 8 ads at once is pretty bad, but 5-7 rows of ads? At 4 per row? You really expect someone to take in 20-28 ads at once?

Maybe you remember tales of the $1,000,000 website, a successful, single-purpose advertising website. Ads on that site probably paid off since the site was such a novelty when it debuted in 2005. The creator really got their million bucks and the advertisers got their eyeballs. But looking at that wall of ads... do you really think there's anything worth finding in there?

Your static grid of adverts reminds me of one of the oldest advertising schemes still in existence: the yellow pages. You open up the phone book looking for businesses by category and are confronted with full pages of ads. This was wildly successful advertising when it debuted over a hundred years ago because:

  1. it was the only means of semi-permanent, mass-distributed adverts
  2. there was literally no other way to find businesses
  3. people who saw an ad there were likely already looking for the product or service being advertised, because the book and ads are organized by category/keyword.

Today, this would be referred to as targeting motivated shoppers. The yellow pages are essentially an analog search engine. No one bought an ad for toupeés and placed it in the section women's shoes. Similarly, no one printed ads for toilet repairs in their novellas. To be blunt, the Yellow Pages' scheme will not work for your app.

If you want your ads to be seen, make them visible while the user while they use your app. Not before or after. If you want your ads to be effective, make them targeted and relevant to the user.

Consider Flappy Bird, which earned up to $50,000 per day in advertising. It did this with a rotating ad shown in the footer. Combined with addictive game play and a viral word-of-mouth spread, this guaranteed thousands of people were looking at the ads for hours on end, rather than just a few seconds between opening the app and scrolling or clicking through to the game play.

To sum up, I suggest displaying fewer ads at once (ideally only one), visible 100% of the time that a user is on your compelling interactive feature without impeding use of the app as that will only annoy your users and create negative associations with your advertisers. Targeting these ads ensure that an advertiser reaches their demographic and doesn't waste their time or money reaching people who aren't interested in their products. If you need more impressions, rotate the ad displayed, either every time the app is opened or on a delay while the user is using it.

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There may be 5-7 rows of ads. Thinking of the students, I think that's bad for usability

Agreed. But let's step back even further. That's just bad usability for the advertisers. No one wants their ad hidden in a pile of 20+ other ads.

Seeing that many ads will, in turn, cause 'banner blindness' and the user simply scroll past the entire lot. This benefits no one (other than perhaps the client, if he can actually sell these 20 ads).

However, you're asking about the advertiser, and the end user. So let's figure out what they might have in common for their needs.

  • The advertiser: wants their ad to be seen

  • The end-user: doesn't want to have to scroll through a bunch of ads.

  • The (possible) solution: Have one ad, or just one row of ads.

You client could still charge the same amount and then just show one row of randomly selected ads on each page load.

The drawback here for the advertisers is that they lose page views. But, hopefully, they gain click-throughs.

Of course, there's no way to prove this at the moment, so ideally you'd be able to prove this with some A/B testing. Present two versions of the page randomly to users (one being the client's request, the other being the single ad version). See which one increases click-thru rates for the ads.

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If there's 5-7 rows of ads your wireframe should reflect that.

As you'll see - what you have is an advertising site. It's not really an interactive calendar at all.

Facebook is about the limit of adverts that you can have on one page.

The best you can do is use the width and put the ads to the side.

enter image description here

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