Pointing Out Site Features Inside Banner Space

Let's say you're the webmaster for your company's web site and your boss has asked demanded you put something up to get people to start using a feature of the site that he thinks people aren't using enough. Being the smart person you are, you know that the feature isn't being used because it's either a bad feature, poorly named or isn't incorporated well enough into the site's overall navigation. But, you're also smart enough to realize that your boss doesn't want to hear that stuff and you need to get something put up today. What do you do? Simple, just run a self-promo for the feature in a banner space. Think this doesn't happen all the time on sites of all sizes? Check out any video page on YouTube. Ignore the Ted's Tubes video, and look at the self-promo banner above it. Is running a banner promo like this optimal? Hardly, for a multitude of reasons. But, will it appease your boss? Absolutely, and it might not actually be as bad of an idea as you thought if you follow this one simple rule. Utilize the Banner’s Context. Pay attention to where the banner will be placed on your site. It can make all the difference. Don't just pull up Photoshop and start cranking out a sweet looking banner spot in your private 728 pixel by 90 pixel area. Think about where your banner will end up. Most of the time, designers have to create banners never knowing what the context will be. You have the luxury of knowing exactly what the site looks like that you're designing for. DISCLAIMER: The following suggestions are intended only for when you know and can control exactly where your banner will run. If you're planning to run a self-promo banner across a variety of different sites or through an ad network, then you'll have to create something more generic that works in all situations.
  • Snap a screenshot of the page(s) that the banner will run on and pull it up in Photoshop. Work right on top of it.
  • Choose an appropriate background color. In most cases, it will make sense to match the background to the banner's immediate surrounding, so it doesn't look like a banner. Who wants their users to have "ad glaze" when learning about the site's own features?
  • Figure out where the banner is in relation to the feature you're pointing out. If you're lucky, it's right next to it and you can extend the feature's description directly into the banner space.
  • Use lots of white space. Most of the time, your site will have a big ugly banner. Why not use this opportunity to unclutter that part of the site? Maybe people will even like the look without a banner there and realize the small revenue from that banner isn't worth degrading the site.
  • Don't incorporate your logo unless you absolutely have to, especially if it's anywhere near the actual site ID.
If this banner had loaded when you clicked the previous YouTube link, then you would have seen a great example of a self-promo banner taken out of context. Why have an arrow pointing down to a smaller/faded replica of the site's navigation menu? Why not just have the arrow point up to the Channels tab? It's right there! The designer clearly failed to take into account the context that the banner would end up in.

Kevin is Viget's product design director in our Falls Church, VA, HQ. He concepts, launches, and optimizes products for the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Privia Health, and OPOWER.

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