I’m taking a bit of a break from writing my contextual series to address a few crucial problems that I’ve been seeing on a daily basis. That is the lack of a good user experience. On any given day, I visit close to 50 different sites and use over a dozen apps. Of those I would say that 75% of them I would not visit or use if they had decent competitors. The biggest problems with sites and apps these days is that they like to bombard the users with information. I get that you want to make money from your ads, but displaying them elegantly will yield better results. Design is also crucial, these days the simple look works and it looks great.
I’ve built my site around the same principles that I talk about. Yes my blog has ads, but I in no way try to distract my readers from the content. I push users to signing up to my newsletter in a box that appears in the top right. That box is set only to be seen once a week. As for the look and feel, I kept things simple with no fancy logos, gradients, etc. While I may not get a huge amount of traffic, I am sure this design and approach could be used with great success from more popular bloggers.
Advertising that doesn’t distract
If your site or application is using up the majority of the screen real estate to push users towards clicking an ad. That user will be likely to move on. Even if your product is original and something people would love, annoy your users and they can ignore you. Not that I want to pick on any particular site, but I do want to show some examples of what I mean. Of course for each example, I will provide ways to fix it. My first example is this here.
This is the home screen and what you are greeted with when you first come to the site. Not to say you can’t advertise, but focusing on a design that pushes the users towards your main content and the ads as a supplement won’t have users confused on what is or isn’t content. I’ve made a quick mockup of a design that should solve the complexity of the home screen.
The idea isn’t that you want to remove all ads, but limit them on the home screen. Your goal is to drive users to interact and want to dive in some more. As your content attracts the user to navigate the site, you have the opportunity to push different types of ads to the user. Whether it be sponsored content or video ads that are inline with the content, if done properly users will continue to click around. Sometimes it isn’t even the fact that ads get in the way of content. Sometimes there are simply too many ads. There should be no reason that you stack together 3 ad boxes which are all the same or similar. Or have 3 or more ad units above the fold on your home page.
Clean and elegant design
These days the nice clean, elegant and simple design is the one that works best. The reason for that is that a lot of sites and products often want to be viewable and want to adapt to mobile displays. As content and ads begin to clutter the experience, this becomes more difficult. The cluttered experience tends to allow users to wander off without truly knowing where they are going or where they want to go. Here I have a few examples from sports sites. ESPN in my opinion is the most cluttered example. Looking at Yahoo Sports and Sportsnet on the other hand are far more simple. They use whitespace and titles / headers to push users towards their content.
My contextual series is important for sites like the above that have a lot of content. When I come to these sites, I may only want to see details about the players or the teams I like. Given that I live in Toronto, show me information about Toronto’s sports teams. Push me towards the content that I would want to see rather than making me look for all of it. To be fair, these sites for the most part do have the ability to select your favorite teams. Though they could be proactive in trying to identify teams I may like ahead of me updating my preferences. In turn it could allow them all to update their designs into one that could be even simpler.
The simple look and feel, as I am using for my blog isn’t particularly new. However as mobile has become the focus for a lot of products and sites, the clean and flat look has become popular. The goal is to keep it short and keep it simple. You don’t often need the fancy images, a lot of text, or fancy gradients or odd fonts for your titles. Big titles and pictures to catch the user’s attention. Using that attention to push them towards your content and then hooking them to your site or product.