1. The myth
If I scatter web banners across the intranet to publicise my campaign, it will have a big impact and raise awareness among people.
2. The reality
No it won’t! Web banners can become a check list item for every kind of initiative. Site owners can get several requests each week to publish banners on their sites. As they only have a limited number of slots for banners on their pages and they give priority to those relevant to their local audiences, most banners never see the light of day despite the time and effort put into creating them.
… and few people look at them.
3. The evidence
Selective attention is a widely recognised behaviour on the web backed up by reams of usability evidence. Selective attention is what web users quickly develop from browsing around web pages – it basically means that they learn to ignore adverts and content that looks like adverts.
Take a look at these diagrams which are heat maps created from eye tracking software following what a sample group of users looked at on web pages. The red colour is where the users looked most … the grey is what they ignored. The adverts on these pages have been highlighted with green boxes … as you can see, users instinctively ignore them!
Usability research about adverts on web pages is quite revealing – the below is typical:
- I enjoy looking at them – 7%
- They’re OK if not too intrusive – 24%
- They’re OK if related to the site I’m on – 24%
- I find them annoying – 45%
So, the lesson seems to be: unobtrusive and relevant adverts are OK … hold that thought.
I know what you’re thinking … this research is about adverts on the internet – not about banners in the intranet. Well, the evidence on the effectiveness of banners on local sites shows:
- on average, a banner will get few hits per day
- this means that a very small % of visitors will click on a banner
- the banners which get the fewest hits are those relating to company-wide campaigns and initiatives
- the banners which get the most hits are those referring to activity specific to that site
4. The solution
So what can be done? How about:
- reducing the number of banners and only use them for key campaigns – it is the sheer quantity that can make them intranet litter
- better planning – agree and prioritise before distributing for publication
- better targeting – make banners relevant to local audiences – these are the ones that get the best response
- avoid publishing content on web pages that looks like it is a banner (i.e. both in terms of location on the page and design/presentation)
- aiming to have a maximum of three banners on a web page – more than three is litter!