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12 Ways to Create Compelling Graphic Banner Ads for Your Website

By Nathan Segal

As with any design process, the first thing to do is to know what you want to say. In this case, you have the choice of a static, or an animated banner. There are pros and cons to both. For the former, you'll need to use a simple design and one or two images to get the point across. You'll also need a call to action, something to make the viewer want to click on your ad for more information.

If you decide to use animation, the same information above applies, though you might choose to use several screens to display your message. The end result is that you want to capture your viewer's attention and make him/her click on the banner.

There are some software programs that you can buy to create banner ads, but having tried out a few of them, I wouldn't recommend them, largely because of the lack of control. Within a short time of using one in particular, I became frustrated when I discovered that the image controls didn't allow for much flexibility.

With banner ads, you have two options, horizontal or vertical and you'll have to decide which format benefits your site layout and also, which will also be best format for your ad.

Before you begin to design a banner, it's important to see what successful designs are already in use and to create a swipe file, where you can easily access different designs and use them as templates to create your own. Here are a couple of resources:


Example 1


Example 2

Note what draws your attention to the different ads. Which ones would motivate you to click on them? Why? What makes the ad compelling?

Here are some useful design tips:

  1. When you design your ad, keep it simple and clear, free of clutter with a message that's easy to read. It must jump out from the rest of the message.
  2. Use animation, but sparingly. You don't want to irritate the viewer.
  3. The animation should not interfere with the design or message.
  4. The animation should loop no more than ten times.
  5. Keep file sizes small. It's important that your animations load quickly. While Flash creates great animations, it can also create large files. For this reason it's better to use compressed JPEGs or GIF files.
  6. When designing a banner, it's important to understand the importance of branding, so make sure you use the company logo in some way.
  7. Make sure your message and call to action is on the first page in case the user decides to stop the animation.
  8. Use bright blue, green and yellow colors. Avoid red.
  9. Some words that can improve your clickthrough ratio (CTR) are: Click here, submit and free.
  10. Make sure the banner links to the page that has the information mentioned on the banner. Don't make them hunt for it.
  11. Be aware that boredom sets in quickly. It's important to rotate your banners every 2-3 weeks.
  12. Testing is necessary in order to find out which banners are the most effective. Once you establish that, you can run the effective banners and drop the ones that aren't performing as well.


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