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How Ads Affect User Experience: Publishers Are Taking a Stand against Disruptive Ads

August 08, 2017
4 min reading time


More ads typically mean higher revenue, which is why websites are often stuffed to the brim with banners, pop-ups, sponsored stories, and auto-playing videos, comparable to the cluttered billboards of Times Square. But that approach tends to degrade the user experience. More and more online publishers are taking a stand against disruptive ads to improve the experience they provide their readers.

Online Publishers Try Reducing Ads to Boost Revenue

Publishers like LittleThings and Dotdash are taking a ‘less is more’ approach to ads displayed on their sites. Fewer ads may mean less revenue per page, but overall ad revenue may increase. For LittleThings, revenue generated from each visitor’s session was 38% more in June 2017 compared with the same month in the previous year.

“Users view more pages, share more content and are generally more engaged,” says chief digital officer of LittleThings, Justin Festa.

Google Plans Ad-Blocking Feature in Chrome Browser

Chrome wants to filter out ads that provide bad experiences for users on both their mobile and desktop web browsers. Unacceptable ad types may include:

  • Pop-ups
  • Auto-playing video ads with sound
  • Prestitial ads with countdown timers
  • Offensive ads

LiftIgniter Wins 2 Prizes at Google’s ML Competition

On Wednesday, 12 July, Google Cloud hosted the final of their Machine Learning Startup Competition in San Francisco. The competition was held for early-stage startups that implement machine learning in various fields.

Ten finalists were chosen out of more than 350 applications.

  • The grand prize went to PicnicHealth, a company creating training data for precision medicine. They received $1M in GCP credits.
  • The Runner-Up prize went to us, LiftIgniter. We personalize online experiences with machine learning. We received $500K in GCP credits.
  • All remaining finalists received $200K in GCP credits.
  • Additionally, Brainspec and LiftIgniter were selected by Data Collective and Emergence Capital to receive an investment of up to $500,000 each. Brainspec provides ‘virtual biopsies’ by measuring the concentrations of chemicals in the brain.

Secrets to Creating a Better User Experience

Here are some examples of how media brands are solving the user experience challenge:

  • The mobile ‘hamburger menu’ works well where space is limited, while a combination of hidden and visible menus work best on desktop. According to research, site navigation on desktop was 50% with a combination, but drops to 27% when menus were hidden.
  • Visible tap-to-top triggers make scrolling easier.
  • Light text on dark backgrounds is easier to read.
  • Screens are split with major stories surfaced at the top and a live feed of the latest stories at the bottom or side.
  • Slower scrolling to slow down the pace.

How to Increase Readership with Better Content Design

Improve user experience with these content design tips:

  • The most important content should be visible above the fold.
  • Improve readability and legibility with the right typography, like the kind of font, size, line height, character spacing, and content width.
  • Space out content with images and headers to help the reader summarize the content more easily.
  • The call-to-action should be visible, but not in their face and not before they even started reading the content.
  • Show your human side. Write with emotion. Convey your passion.

Flipboard Shifts to Mobile-First

In an interview with Axios, Mike McCue, founder of Flipboard, talks about their change to a mobile-first business model, because 95% of their readers access the app from mobile. Here are McCue’s pointers on how to drive more traffic:

  • Focus on quality over quantity in ads.
  • Provide quality content for a premium experience.
  • Design should be part of major strategic decision-making.
  • Algorithms can’t fix fake news – human editors are imperative.

YouTube to Stop 30-Second Unskippable Ads

On a quest to provide a better advertising experience for online users, YouTube will shift to shorter ads in 2018, like the six-second unskippable bumper ads introduced in April last year.

Advertisers may not be happy with the shift, but that’s the price YouTube is willing to pay to keep people watching. Advertisers doing creative, engaging work won’t need to worry.

Get in touch with LiftIgniter if you want to learn more about personalization, AI, and machine learning.

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