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Banners blindness visited again: User avoid displays on phone and desktops.
Summary: Consumers have learnt to disregard contents that remind them of adverts, are near adverts, or appear in places where adverts historically appear. The banner blind spot is a long known web visitor behaviour: it depicts the trend of humans to disregard page items that they see (correctly or incorrectly) as advertising. And while the pattern of websites and the type of advertising have developed, banner blinding is still widespread, as our recent research shows.
The banner blind is an example of selected attention: humans only focus their attentions on a partial set of environmental stimulants - usually those related to their outcomes. Such behaviour is a result of our finite capacity for alert. UI items and various contents struggle for the user's awareness on the web.
In order to perform their jobs effectively, humans have learnt to look for items that are usually useful (e.g. navigational panels, searching fields, headlines) and disregard those that are normally without information. Therefore banner blinding. Also ignores valid contents items that have certain advertising-like properties. Disregarding advertisements is a learnt behaviour - like many other web behaviours (classic example is the searching for the corporate image in the top right of the page or the searching for overall navigational information at the top of the page).
Our latest eye tracking survey found that some respondents have learnt to jump over the ad presented at the top of Google results, even though its design is far from conventional banner advertising. Usually, because desktops appear at the top of the page or in the right track, web surfers sometimes disregard the contents placed there.
Our latest eye tracking survey saw 26 respondents visit the same website where they were working on a job to find the best way to remove a tag from a glass. There was a small amount of text, some pictures and advertising on the top banner as well as on the right track.
Visitors have been reading the text on the page, but they have viewed the advertisements very little (if at all), as shown below. To be ignored, an ad does not have to appear at the top of the page or in the right rib. Today's advertisements can appear anywhere on a website, and consumers are conscious of this fact.
In this way they take care not to spend any amount of valuable ad space, even if the ad appears in contents areas. Advertising is relatively easily ignored on the desktops because it is very different from the page items around it. In our recent survey, for example, 26 respondents who tried to find out about Mikhail Baryshnikov's dancing practice ignored the advertising in the text.
PhD was different from the text and photograph on the website. Any of these features alerted the user that the square was a promotional activity so they could safely disregard it. Contents placed in the same part of the display as an ad are often regarded as ads and ignored.
When humans look at different objects within an area of the display, they create a virtual blueprint of the contents available there, on the basis of the information smell of the objects they care for. An investigator who learned how to take a glass tag off only once considered the correct splint and presumably decided it only included displays.
Although the right track contained sponsor story lines, it also contained useful, funny video clips showing how to do various handicraft jobs, such as knitting a carpet or making a magnet framework. Users were deterred by the advertisement placed in the same page section and did not examine any other contents in the right track.
You can see in the example above that advertisements can cause a user to look away from an area and not go back to it. In the web, the so-called hotspotscan patterns occur when a user looks at an object in which they are not interested, then looks away and avoids focusing on that area on that page and sometimes on other pages of the site and even on entirely different sites.
Behaviour of hotspots is a defence mechanisms to prevent loss of valuable experience and fixation on non-relevant items. It is also an example of the distortion of availability: one or more web user samples suggest that the same kind of contents will always appear in the same place on other pages.
As an example, although in the early days of the web, the right track was reserved for advertisements, its functionality later shifted to including related sites. Today the right track can be used for just about anything. Once contents remind of advertisements and appear in the correct order, consumers are prone to ignoring them.
This information was published on the entire website, also in the right track. Once she fixed herself on the right track, and since the articles seemed to be advertising there, she never again saw on the right track. Let's concentrate for a while on the contents area of the page - the area that doesn't contain the cook.
The page has 148 fixings, of which 132 are in the contents area. Of these 132 fixings, only one is in the right track: that's 0.8% of the user's awareness within 25% of the contents area. This huge discrepancy between these two percentage rates shows the toxic effect of the hotspotato phenomenon: the number of fixings in the right track was 33x smaller than its magnitude could have justified.
Just like desktops, mobiles also try to prevent advertising. Though there are some default places for ad placements on the phone (e.g. on top of an item, at the bottom of the screen), many websites include ad placements in their contents. In-line advertising on the cell phone is difficult to prevent for several reasons: Less information is simultaneously viewable, making it more difficult to distinguish items that differ from the primary contents (because there is so little of the page contents on the page).
Everything that differs from the immediate environment is likely to be seen as an advertisement, although its display may coincide with other items on the page that are not currently there. Sometimes humans can erroneously believe that large pictures, diagrams or other items that attract attention are advertising.
This also happens on the desktops, but we noted it in our current survey for the first times on the cell phone. A seasoned traveler can, for example, see the top of an illustration and then quickly scan past it before viewing it, provided it is an ad. In 1997 we started to document banner blind spots among web surfers through conventional useability tests.
Then in 2007, when we did a large eye tracking trial, we gave a more detailed account of this result. We' ve just finished a new large eye tracking trial and found that banner blinding is still a frequent behaviour, as described in this paper. The banner blind spot has been recorded for more than 3 years now. It is a powerful and resilient phenomena and, like advertising itself, is unlikely to disappear as quickly.
Sometimes advertisements can help people. However, a designer should be wise about how to present website contents. Don't make your contents look like advertising. Select colours, types, backgrounds and overall styles with care. They may think that distinguishing them from the rest of the site increases their prominence, but it often has the opposite effect.
Perform user friendliness testing to ensure that your visitors actually see important information in the top banner or right track. Don't shuffle contents and advertisements in the same area.