Few advertisers seem to exercise good judgment in designing the appearance, behavior and frequency of ads. Most seem completely unaware of user priorities, demonstrating a willingness to interrupt them continually. Disrespect of user preferences, and an inability to accept that the web is completely user-driven, is at the core of poorly-designed user interaction with ads.
Dislike of intrusive ad formats cuts across age, education and technical proficiency: users as young as 12 expressed annoyance. Unpredictability is a hot button, and noise -- visual or aural -- is a major irritant. Auto-launched audio sends all users scrambling for volume controls on the computer, for reasons ranging from embarrassment at work to waking a sleeping child or spouse.
In our test, users expressed a preference for ads that were quieter:
- unobtrusive design
- no audio or user-controlled audio
Pop-ups and pop-unders backfire
The worst offenders are ads that interrupt user tasks. For this reason, pop-ups are a major user irritant. Pop-unders are almost as badly received.
"I will never try Netflix because I see this ad everywhere," said Alisha, a 26-year-old new mom who prefers renting DVDs to going to the movie theater, as she closes two pop-unders including Netflix. "I was thinking about getting a service like this, but I’ll try Blockbuster or Wal-Mart instead."
Take away for advertisers: Users have alternatives, and an intrusive ad can send a user straight to your competitor.
Alisha, the user pictured in this test, will choose a Netflix competitor because she dislikes their pervasive pop-under ads.