Banners are one of the most common ad types on the internet. So common, in fact, that we often forget they’re there. Great banner ads catch the eye without being overwhelming or annoying and can drive enormous amounts of traffic. Bad banner ads, get ignored at best and at worst, damage the brand’s reputation with customers.
So what makes some ads irresistibly clickable while others disappear into the background, or worse, become an annoyance? The answer is good design. As simple as that answer sounds, the execution is anything but.
We’ve put together ten tips for great banner designs that will help you increase traffic and sales.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to banner ads. You want to catch the viewer’s attention without overwhelming their field of vision or blocking out their content.
It’s also important to stick to standard ad sizes. This is one place where your thinking needs to stay in the proverbial “box.” You can create a gorgeous banner that’s 1000x1000 but you're going to have a nigh impossible time getting it placed.
Luckily there’s some data to help you choose your sizing. According to Google Adsense, the top performing ad sizes are:
A study by Emerald Insight found that up to 90% of the snap judgements we make about products are based on colors and how these line up with the essence of the brand.
There are no hard and fast rules to follow regarding which colors to choose; the important factors in choosing colors are: Do they align with your brand identity? And: Do the colors complement one another?
Look into your brand identity book or style sheet to answer the first question. Some brands have signature colors that work well in a monochromatic design or can be incorporated as a pop to reinforce brand identity. (Think Adobe’s signature red or National Geographic’s signature gold)
Look at the color wheel to make sure your colors don’t clash. A simple complementary color scheme uses colors that sit opposite one another on the color wheel and can be quite pleasing.
You can also go for a more complex scheme such as a triad or tetrad. A guide like this one can be very helpful as you choose a color scheme for your ad.
It’s also important to consider the psychology associated with certain colors. A pop of yellow, balanced with blue or black promotes a sense of urgency and power. Orange is seen as a friendly color that invites audiences to connect with their creativity. Green signifies growth and learning, and so forth. You can find a basic guide to color psychology in marketing here.
The most important aspect of color selection is that it aligns with your brand’s visual identity. Start with your brand colors and work out from there. If your logo is bright orange, a light pink background on your ad probably isn’t a good idea.
Good banner ad design is all about balance in both design and messaging. An effective banner ad will increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your site so you need to include three main components in every ad:
Your Logo - Obviously your logo needs to be both present and prominent to promote brand awareness. Your logo should be clearly visible and noticeable but smaller than the value proposition and call to action.
Call to Action – Your CTA is the big friendly button you’re hoping users will click. This should be the second most prominent part of your ad. Use unambiguous, inviting phrasing like “Get Started” or “Shop Now.”
Value Proposition – This part of your ad gets the prime real estate and should be the first thing the eye is drawn to. Your value proposition is where you highlight the service or product you’re offering with an offer, special price, or enticing description.
As veteran designer Gabriel Shaoolian explains in Forbes, you want to make sure you have “just enough spacing between each element that each one catches the eye without overwhelming the brain, with the call to action the biggest and brightest of the bunch so that it effectively facilitates clicks through.”
Scroll back up and look at the most effective banner sizes.There’s not a lot of space. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm the viewer. Banner ads are all about efficiency.
Keep visuals simple and intriguing. The other thing banner ads don’t have a lot of is time. You only have the span of a glance to pull the viewer in, make an impression, and entice a click.
Messaging should also be simple and clear. This is especially true in the CTA – In the same Forbes article, Shaoolian explains that it’s important not to make the customer feel like they’re going to have to do more work once they reach the landing page. Instead of using words like “learning” or “discovering” use action words like “Get” or “Book” to make the action on the next page feel easy.
In 2019, mobile is king and the 20’s likely to steadfastly stick to that rule. According to an eMarketer report, “conversions from mobile display ad placements have already surpassed those of desktop.” Which is why mobile accounts for 69.9% of all digital advertising.
Your ad is far more likely to be viewed on a mobile device than a desktop computer so your design should reflect that.
Your fonts need to be clean and bold, and all images need to be scalable, so they look just as good on a six-inch screen as they do on a sixteen-inch screen.
When it comes to banner ads, borders aren’t just an important part of framing and design, they are also often a requirement. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) states that display ads “must have clear defined borders and not confused with normal web content.”
Borders also serve to draw the eye. We are naturally drawn to visual elements inside a frame. Your graphics should extend to the edge and be cognizant of negative space to create an attractive, well balanced ad. If your ad happens to be the same color as the background of the site it will be placed on, you’ll want to add a one-pixel grey frame around it to offset from the rest of the site.
Animations should be simple and should not last more than fifteen seconds. Looping is good but not more than three times and it’s important that wherever your animation ends up includes your call to action!
For more subtle movement, cinemagraphs are an attractive option for animating your ad. These grown-up gifs are pictures with only a few elements moving in the background on a seamless loop, so that the photo appears alive. They’re also very on-trend.
Follow your own style guide and brand voice in your ads. The ad the customer clicks on should be similar in tone and style to the website they end up on.
If you’re a tech company, you aren’t going to put out an ad covered in florals, nor should you. Your brand identity should remain consistent throughout all your marketing efforts and online presence in general.
Consistent branding helps build brand recognition and fosters a sense of connection, reliability, and trust between you and your customers.
Keep your file sizes small. If your ad is too big, users will miss it altogether because they’ll have scrolled past it before it even loads. Google Adsense recommends keeping ads below 150kb.
You might need to provide a fallback image for some networks, especially if you’re using animation or video. Fallback images are static versions of your ad that will show up if someone is trying to view the page on an older device or if they have a particularly poor connection.
Simple design is not necessarily simple to produce. Banner ads may be commonplace on the internet but they represent an investment of time and money on your company’s part that is not to be taken lightly.
Banners are also often the first and most frequent interaction many customers will have with your brand so you need them to represent you well or you haven’t just wasted your advertising dollars, you’ve created the opposite of the intended result!
It may be tempting to try to cobble together an ad on your own or hand the task off to a secretary or intern, but this is a big mistake.
You want a seasoned design professional working on your ad copy so that you get the most out of every ad placement.
Unfortunately, keeping a designer on staff is expensive and working with traditional design firms is slow and costly.
At Superside, we have an international team of top-ranked designers and brand identity experts to help design the best banner ads so that you get the most bang for your advertising buck. Even when it comes to YouTube banners, we've got all your banner design needs covered!
Our designers have extensive experience creating enormously successful banner ads for clients from all industries around the globe.
We sat down with Bill Macaitis, former Slack CMO, to chat about what it takes to success with ad design. Hear his tips and more in this Q&A style interview!