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What Users Hate About Online Ads - Why users hate intrusive ads

What Users Hate About Online Ads - Why users hate intrusive ads Cia Romano
Why users hate intrusive ads

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

  • fact-based

  • non-animated

  • 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.


Cia Romano, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Interface Guru is an evangelist for end users, researching and reporting on why user-centered design for the web, intranets, software and kiosks is mandatory for success. A hands-on user interface...

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