WPDFD Issue #59 - February 01, 2003

I've often heard it said that banner ads are ineffective on Web pages. It's probably true, but then any misconceived ad will be ineffective and most banner ads don't stand a chance because the people that produced them don't know the difference between a 'notice' and an advertisement. A notice is a statement displayed in a prominent position. It might say 'No Parking' or 'Closed' or 'Lost Dog'.

Attract

First of all, it has to be visible. That's not easy! Imagine a road with flashing neon signs on both sides all shouting at you and competing for attention - Fried Chicken, Luxury Rooms, Low Prices. The Web is a bit like that too. In the street, or on the Web, it's not the sign that shouts loudest that wins, it's the one with the right message delivered competently. If you are vegetarian, the visual pyrotechnics of the 'Chunky Chicken' sign are just meaningless noise.

Identify

In making your ad visually different, you have probably created a distinct identity for it. This is a very valuable property because it sets you apart from all the rest and you should endeavour to maintain and build upon that identity through consistent application. Every time you make the same, or very similar visual statement, the identity is made stronger. It grows and flourishes. Suppose you are out on the town and someone hands you a flyer advertising the Pink Pussycat Club and you think, "That looks interesting".

Entice

Having caught the reader's attention, you also have to get their interest. If someone is beckoning at you with a finger, the person doing it and their demeanour will considerably influence your reaction. Regardless of who they are, your initial reaction will probably be one of suspicion. It is their job to break down your natural reticence and entice you forward and, if they know what they are doing, they will use a skillful combination of body language and verbal language to do so.

The mechanicals

Physical dimensions, file size and formats. The most common sizes for banner ads are 468 x 60 px and half of that (234 x 60 px). Other popular sizes are 460 x 55 px, 392 x 72 px, 125 x 125 px, 120 x 90 px, 120 x 60 px, 88 x 31 px, 120 x 240 px. Publishers prefer small file sizes and often put a maximum file size limit of 10-15K on banner ads. That doesn't seem like a lot but this new Bios font banner made with Adobe ImageReady is only 4.1K!

Apple's Safari Browser

I watched Steve Jobs announce Apple's new Safari Web browser on the MWSF webcast and had it downloaded and running on my PowerBook within minutes. Yes, it was miniscule in file size (less than 3 Meg) and it performed like a racehorse as he said it would. As with every new browser or browser version that comes out, I check out my sites to see if anything nasty has happened – like when IE 6.0 came out and I had to modify over 200 pages because it was centring all the text!

You may have noticed that some of my banners rotate - the one on the WPDFD home page is a prime example. Each time you load the page, you get a different ad. This is done with a little JavaScript routine which I will share with you. There are two scripts. One in the body of page at the place you want the banner to appear and one in the head (or in an externally linked .js file if you prefer). This main script sets up an array of banners, much like the array you would use for rollovers.