Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Buzzfeed…. some of the most popular new social media platforms and websites of 2013 are pointing towards a new trend in web ads for 2014. Sources ranging from Forbes.com to blogs like that found on medianovak.com all agree, image driven advertising, especially image driven branded content will reign supreme in the New Year.
Why? The answer will sound familiar to anyone who deals with consumers on or off the web. They’re busier than ever and they show no sign of slowing down. This means that your target market is unlikely to stay on a web page just for an ad with bullet copy and a lackluster stock shot. In an age where no one is going to give your ad attention, successful ads reach out and grab it.
Another driving force behind this change in ad style is the ubiquity of websites, blogs and social media platforms that offer space for long form copy and the information that was once necessary to pack in print and digital ads. It’s become instinct for today’s consumer to click through an ad that interests them, so those information packed ads are no longer essential to a campaign’s success.
Think of it this way, if you’re on a page with a banner ad that mostly features copy about a builder in your area has recently added 2 new 3 bedroom floorplans with luxury features to his plans for an exclusive condo tower, all accompanied by a small picture of the tower, you may click through, or you may not. That ad gave you plenty of information, why go find out more? If you’re seriously interested in the condo, you can just Google it later. You hit refresh and a second banner ad comes up with an artistic illustration of a woman getting out of a high-end car on a city street with a tagline “Elegance. Coming 2014” and the builder’s logo in a corner. Chances are, you would be more inclined to click through. Both ads are selling the same product, and both are technically well done. But there’s almost an air of mystery about that second ad and even if you’re not in the market for a luxury condo, you may want click through, just to find out what that “Elegance” really is.
From an ROI standpoint, creative, visually appealing ads that intentionally withhold information from the consumer could boost your click through rate. Make sure the information they’re looking for is easily discoverable once they click through, and you may find that your audience is more willing to click through an ad that keeps them guessing than one that tells them everything.
All signs point to 2014 being the year of the image driven ad, so, as we move towards January, what are you designing?
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When Microsoft released the Zune back in 2006, most were skeptical about the new MP3 player, and rightfully so, just five years later, Microsoft announced the discontinuation of Zune Hardware. However, something about the much maligned iPod competitor stuck with audiences. Its simple, clean design. The Zune interface, unlike its more successful counterparts, was free of drop shadows, gradients, and Skeumorphism (the attempt to make something digital look like something physical e.g., the yellow “legal pad” in Apple’s Notes application).
Fast forward to today; with Google Now’s clean, flat design, whispers of Apple’s IOS7 interface being completely redesigned to remove all traces of drop shadows and gradients in favor of clean open design (sound familiar?) and Facebook’s recently released new News Feed that says “Goodbye to Clutter” with a completely flat and simplistic design, it’s clear that Flat Design is the thing. But why? When it is so easily associated with a failed product from a company that is still not cool enough to play with the big three?
As always, there are many speculations that could serve as an answer to that question, from perceived ease of scalability in the dawning of the age of reflexive design, to “it’s just another trend”. However, the easiest answer seems to be that it’s new, and most of these platforms haven’t seen “new” in a new.
But is it the future of design? Will we someday look at gradients and drop shadows the way we now look at the splashy typefaces and geometric patterns of the 80’s? Probably not.
Here’s why, flat design requires a few standards to make sure that the design “works”. First, it must be minimal. Most flat design eschews detailed graphics and pictures for simplistic, sometimes silhouetted or outline designs. This is not the kind of design that would lend itself well to image driven industries, from real estate, to fashion, to photography, and while certain flat design elements could be added to sites that are not totally “flat” the contrast between flat design and “non-flat” design can be a bit jarring. Also, flat design works best with bright or super saturated colors. These colors allow for a high level of contrast between the background color and the text/graphics that are almost invariably white or black. While these colors may appeal to some audiences, they lack universal appeal, and many professional audiences tend to find them jarring or too unconventional. Another problem many have with flat design is the overall casual message it sends to the consumer. Because of its retro feel, which is interpreted by most audiences to be less-than-serious, flat design does not easily lend itself to professional websites.
What is the ideal site for flat UI design? Well, tech-focused blogs and websites have been quick to adopt the trend, as well as advertising agencies, graphic design studios, and other creative businesses. Sites (and apps!) with more creative audiences are more attracted to the trend than those with more professional or traditional audiences. Also, sites that encourage more user interaction, similar to a social media site, are favoring the flat design aesthetic as its clean look makes it easier for the user to identify what they are looking for.
Ultimately, like most design trends, the biggest determining factors in whether or not you should consider going flat are your preferences and your audience’s preferences. If you are a creative or progressive company with a similar audience, it may be worth considering a flat design update. However, if you have a more traditional or conservative business or mindset, it may be better to look to a redesign that reflects your company.
By now, you have pretty much experienced behavioral targeting – you go to a website to check something out and suddenly find ads for that particular website’s product or service “following” you around the Internet by appearing on other sites you visit.
Behavioral targeting has a creepy edge to it, but it’s mostly harmless. It doesn’t really disrupt your Internet experience, and unless you click to find out more, a few ads are the worst things you have to put up with.
This experience, however, was much more invasive and borderline stalker behavior. You see, I visited the site, viewed some samples, and did nothing more. I suddenly started receiving emails and phone calls thanking me for visiting the site and asking how he could be of further service.
I can see if I had filled out a contact form or voluntarily signed up for updates or a newsletter. I can see if I had offered my personal information in exchange for a free report. But I did none of these things.
Am I the only one that finds this a little bit over the edge?
I know at least Firefox now lets you opt out of tracking, which I will be employing immediately. I’m not sure if this is the new trend for online activity tracking or a unique marketing tactic that companies pay top dollar for. What I do know is that Gen Y won’t stand for such invasive attempts to win their business.
What do you think? Would you be bothered by a company that contacted you incessantly from a single website visit?