Can We Finally Turn the Tide Against Animated Banners?

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Think about the most valued companies in the world. Microsoft. Exxon Mobil. IBM. These are organizations whose communication budgets dwarf entire companies. Presumably, they can afford to research landing pages with a fury, and decide that animated banners are a waste of real estate on their home (and other) pages. So why is it that Microsoft’s home page looks like this?

And it’s not alone. IBM uses rotating banners. As does AT&T. Exxon Mobil has an animated Flash banner.

Now, to be fair, some of the remaining players in the top 10 have managed to avoid the tide. Apple, famous for its focus, makes the entire home page about one product, with navigation elements to others. Google, of course, has just the search box. And Berkshire Hathaway does not have rotating banners on the home page, but then again, the web presence for the 9th largest company on the planet does not have much of anything on the home page.  

Still, if a majority of the largest corporations in the world implement some type of animated banner, it begs the question: do they know something conversion experts and usability professionals don’t? 

UX professionals regularly rail against these things for good reason. Finding after finding shows that rotating banners are sub-optimal. Consider:

  • All navigation elements are pushed down. The area consumed by the banner can be utilized by following the F pattern. People read or scan from left to right, from top to bottom, and leaving a whole chunk of the top section for something that looks and acts like an ad is a great way to waste space visitors are likely to look at first.
  • People don’t generally read on web sites; they scan. As soon as they find something that closely resembles what they need, they are off the page. That third offer on your banner? Forget about it being seen, let alone noticed.
  • Rotating banners take away some measure of control. On the off chance that a visitor begins to consume content, there’s a chance the visitor will not finish before the next banner is shown. This is a good way to throw away goodwill.
  • Animated banners increase the motor load required. If your call-to-action actually does manage to get attention, there’s a chance it won’t even get clicked because the visitor is not fast enough or doesn’t have enough dexterity to catch your offer before the slide auto-forwards.

And those are for web sites that implement banners well. For others, they pile on the disadvantages by having really large Flash files, inconsistent design between banner slides, and really short intervals between slide transitions.

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