Banner Design Dos & Don'ts
When we first started designing web banner ads (about four years ago), we quickly became frustrated with the limited file size requirements and the odd proportion constraints. After creating thousands of banners, we've formed the conviction that designing for such a limited medium is an art form in and of itself.
Let's get real ... no designer has a formula for creating a winner every single time. However, in this section we offer some design "DOs" and "DON'Ts" that will help design banner creative that does its job well while conforming to standard dimensions and file size limits.
Whether you're ordering a custom banner ad from BannerScapez.com, applying your own text to one of our FREE static banners, or looking for banner design tips to make your own banner more effective, we highly recommend that you review ALL the tips in this section before taking action. A dynamite banner with high CTRs will be your reward for taking the few extra moments to familiarize yourself with the elements of effective banner design!
G E N E R A L
DON'T Start Design Without Knowing the Parameters
You don't want to bark up the wrong tree with the wrong message. Or submit a banner that doesn't comply with the host's specifications. Remember, you have to condense your message, product identity, and call to action into an itty-bitty, attention-grabbing space!
DO Know What You're Selling
Whether it's a site, product, or service ... what are the benefits? Features? Competitor's offerings? Effectiveness of past ad campaigns?
DO Define the Specific Requirements
What does the banner need to accomplish? What are the key communication points? What types of users will see the banner? Who should be targeted? What mandatory elements have to appear in the ad? For example, an unknown company may want to become recognizable to every web developer on the planet. Or perhaps advertise a limited-time offer.
DO Check Out the Sites Where the Banner Will Appear
What color schemes do they use? How busy or simple are they? Where will the banner be placed? How much animation is already present?
DO Know the Specifications
On the sites where your banner will be flighting ... what pixel dimensions do they accept? What are the file size limitations? Which file format do they use? Do they allow animation? If so, is there a limit on looping?
DON'T Try to Convert Your Brochure to A Banner
You've only got a few of seconds to communicate your message, so don't rely on viewers' attention span, imagination, or interpretative powers. Keep it as simple as possible. (See Animation, Text, and Colors for details.)
DO Feature A Call To Action
The old "Click Here" may seem painfully obvious, but CTRs prove that banners with with a directive do better than those without. "GO" or "Submit" buttons also work well.
DO Offer A Benefit For Clicking
Depending on what's being offered, the word FREE can grab attention. Offering a free software demo gets a good response, while offering free money arouses suspicion. Asking, "Need help with your taxes?" or "Want a faster server?" will get people to your site to find out how.
DO Link the Banner To A Specific Page
When viewers click a banner, they want to go to the page with the information they want. Don't link your banner to your home page and make them hunt.
DON'T Keep the Same Old Banner
CTRs drop significantly after 2 weeks, but will usually increase when a new banner appears.
DO Test Your Banners
Run a banner for a week or two, then measure the results (CTRs, resulting sales, etc.). Change one thing in the banner's design (the font, the color combination, the call to action) and run the banner again. Keep trying until you're satisfied you have the best combination and use that banner ad for your campaigns.
DO Consider Repurposing
Banners come in all shapes and sizes ... so knowing what size banners you'll need ahead of time will prevent the designer from having to cram a 468-by-60-pixel design into a banner half that size.
DO Remember Load Time
Most sites have some kind of required file size limit, and even if there's no limit, you don't want your ad to be the item that slows down a page's load time. After you've seen the effects of optimization, you'll become painfully aware of the limitations when it comes to the number of frames used, the font size, how much motion in the animation, color usage and more. At BannerScapez.com, we explore new ways of interpreting or representing motion, using type innovatively, and even challenging the level of simplicity of effective banner ads.