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Top 10 Banner Ad Design Tips direct from Microsoft


10 Tips to Boost Banner Ad Campaigns
Published: Friday, September 14, 2007

Banner ads use both graphics and text so it is important to consider both elements. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you craft an effective banner ad.

1. Study the best examples online. When designing a creative piece like a banner ad, start by identifying the best banner ads that you have seen. The easiest way to do this is to visit the major portals such as MSN.com and look at the different banner ads. Try to identify at least three banner ads that catch your attention and your interest. What, if anything, do these ads have in common? This will help you understand what techniques are effective, as well as what design style appeals to you.

2. Be clear in your graphics and messaging. Your main objective is to have people take a particular action after viewing your ad. A strong, clear message will help capture their interest. Clear communication requires that you understand your message, what you are selling and the benefit that you are offering potential customers. You will often want your primary message to be the strongest visual element in your ad.

3. Control the file size. How many times have you had to wait on a banner ad before you could view a Web site? To minimize user frustration, you need to limit the file size of your ad. As a general rule a 468 x 60 pixel banner should be 12 kilobytes or less. The easiest way to achieve this is to limit the number of colors you use and save your banner as an animated GIF file.

4. Say it in seven words or less. This is especially important for a banner campaign, where you are limited to a small visual space. Using fewer words means that you can make the font size bigger, which increases the impact of your message. For example, instead of saying "You will be satisfied with the speed and reliability of our plumbing repair services," you could say "Fast, reliable plumbing repairs. Guaranteed."

5. Use power words. These are single words that immediately communicate a benefit. "Free", "unbelievable", "incredible", "affordable", "heartwarming" -- a brainstorming session will help you create a list of words that are perfect for your campaign.

6. Select images carefully. Adding visuals is like cooking with spices. Too few will lead to a bland banner, while too many will destroy the desired effect. If you want to add an eye-catching graphic, royalty free stock photography is an inexpensive option. There are several Web sites online that offer these images. Using a drawing or chart with a limited number of colors is an effective way to catch the eye while limiting the file size.

7. Use contrast to capture attention. Your ad will likely include these elements: background colors, a bold text message, and a photograph or drawing, and animated. To be effective you need to have contrast between these elements. Contrast can be achieved using different font sizes and bolds and colors.

8. Limit your use of fonts. When designing your ad, try to use no more than two fonts. If you do use two or more fonts be sure to select fonts from different categories. There are three main font categories: serif (which have tiny "feet" on the letters), sans serif (with no decorative "feet") and decorative (which include highly decorative and script or handwritten fonts).

9. Don't overdo it with animation. If you plan to use animation in your ad, there are a few things to consider. You want the animation to draw the eye without offending the online viewer. When setting the animation speed, look for something that changes at a slow to moderate pace. It helps to set your animations so that they stop after three cycles; some sites may insist on this.

10. Less really is more. As you create your design, remember that less cluttered messages will make a stronger impact with the online viewer. Limit the number of elements -- the colors, fonts, graphics and words -- that you use in your ad and ask yourself whether your primary message is clear.

Source : http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness/online/banner-advertising/articles/10_tips_for_creating_an_effective_banner_ad_campaign.mspx

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