Myth #7: Graphics will make a page element more visible
A common pitfall in web design is to emphasize an important piece of content with a graphic-heavy and flashy presentation. This approach, however, often makes it less visible.
When people look for something specific on a website, they search for text and links where they assume the information would be found. Very often people mistake visual, colorful page elements for ads and avoid them altogether.
It doesn’t mean though that you can’t use any emphasis. Contrast does work well and is essential for prioritizing content and thus creating effective web design.
Research and articles on the use and misuse of graphics:
- Jakob Nielsen’s eye-tracking study confirms that people almost never look at anything that looks like an ad. – Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings. For a detailed discussion, see his book Prioritizing web usability.
- “‘The big finding is that banner blindness is real. It is not just advertising banners but anything that looks like an advertising banner,’ says Jakob Nielsen, a principal at Internet user research firm Nielsen Norman Group in Fremont, Calif. For example, one health-related nonprofit site has a box — not an ad — that tells users what to do if they think they are having a heart attack. But a study showed that people were missing it because of its location on the page” – from Marketers Seek a Banner-Blindness Cure
- The ill effects of banner blindness also occured in the 2006 U.S. elections, where the design of the ballot resulted in 13% of the voters ignoring a complete section due to its positioning. – Banner Blindness in Ballot Design
- Franck Largeault’s study with 300 subjects also confirmes the existence of ad-avoidance (though its main objective was to compare graphical banners with links). – Compared efficiency of advertisement banners and contextual sponsored links on the internet
- Don Norman discusses that people have superb focus and how they miss anything that falls outside of it, and therefore don’t look for ad-like content when they usually find these in the form of links and text. – Commentary: Banner Blindness, Human Cognition and Web Design
- The famous ad-copywriter, Howard Luck Gossage says about ad-avoidance: “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”