When done right, banner ads can be a part of a successful marketing campaign. “With the right ad copy, relevant visuals, and strong call to action, banner ads capture attention and rate high on impressions that help to increase brand awareness,” says Brian David Crane founder of Spread Great Ideas LLC.
But web banner design requires a level of creativity and skill that can be tricky to master.
Here, eight experts share their tips for designing successful banner ads.
What Is A Banner Ad?
Banner ads are a type of display advertising shown on websites, social media or in email. Web banners are often created in rectangular or square shapes, and banner sizes range from small squares to large vertical skyscrapers. They may be in the form of a static image, video or other forms of rich media.
Digital marketers can create web banner ads with a variety of specific goals in mind; to drive brand awareness, traffic to the advertiser’s website, or newsletter or webinar sign ups, for example.
“Think of them like a digital billboard,” says Joe Karasin, chief marketing officer for the DigitalWill Company which offers digital will creation and execution through smart technology. “They are an artistic way to get your brand's message out. They can spark curiosity about your products and services in a way that a text ad or social media post might not.”
Why Banner Ad Design Is So Important
Good banner ad design is essential if you want to break through the clutter of digital advertising, grab attention and get website visitors to respond in a positive way.
“When they are relevant and provide the value the target audience (is) looking for, they yield success,” insists Danilo Coviello, partner founder at language translation service Espresso Translations. “Adequate attention needs to be paid to their design. Understanding how colour works is also key.”
Karasin is blunt about the need for good design: “An ugly banner ad will not get the response you desire,” he says.
There are many tools you can use to create banner ads, including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Canva and Creatopy. They offer ad templates you can customize for your needs. But while banner templates can be a great starting point, you must still think carefully about successful graphic design and copy elements to get the results you want.
Tips for Great Banner Ad Designs
Here are ten expert tips from digital marketers who have created effective banner ads.
1. Choose Colors Carefully
Think carefully about the colors you use. “Visuals play an important role in the success of a banner ad,” says Coviello.” You must know how to combine colours in such a way that they communicate your intent and at the same time perform the magic of driving clicks and conversions.”
At the same time it’s important to stay consistent with your brand identity. “If (your brand) is using a color palette, then stick to those colors,” suggests Karasin.
2. Strive to Stand Out
“It’s all about the ‘wow’ factor,” says Sarah Walters, marketing manager at The Whit Group, a digital marketing agency that offers website and mobile app development services. “Your banner ad needs to stand out and grab people's attention. This means using eye-catching visuals, bold colors, and a clear, concise message.”
But while you want to capture attention, you don’t want to be obnoxious. If your ad is too jarring, it can turn viewers off. Intrusive ads are one reason ad blocker and similar tools are popular.
3. Balance Text & Images
You want to convey your message in an appealing way, without making your ad appear cluttered. “For design, use the magic combination of 80% imagery and 20% text,” suggests Coty Perry, CMO of Anglers.com, considered the biggest fishing gear review sites on the web attracting more than 100,000 site visits a month. “Don’t overdo the limits.” He also recommends using “clearly defined frames to attract focus and attention, especially if your ads are in white.”
4. Reward Users
Give people a reason to click. “The best banner ads always promise a reward for clicking on the ad or invoke curiosity to explore further,” says Perry. He likes to use a “creative mix of imagery/video and relevant copy to catch attention and, in most cases, share a free trial, offer, giveaway, or solution to a relevant problem that makes users click it.”
5. Create a Consistent Experience
When your CTA works and a user clicks through to your website, don’t confuse them. “Keep the banner ad and landing page design elements consistent and in sync,” recommends Crane. That’s another reason why most of these experts mentioned the importance of using brand fonts or colors as part of a consistent experience.
6. Pay Attention to Details
Little details can help your banner ad perform better. Sam Jacobs, chief content officer of Ammo.com, an online resource for bulk ammunitions, magazines and shooting accessories from the top manufacturers worldwide, recommends you make sure you use different font sizes for headlines and body copy so they “stand out visually.”
“Don't forget about the hierarchy, alignment, and proximity of the elements in the banner to make them easier to process and understand,” says Diana-Alina Aldea, PPC team leader at Creatopy, a creative automation platform that enables brands and agencies alike to build, optimize and personalize creatives at scale for various markets, channels and digital platforms.
7. Create a Clear CTA
Your call to action is what you want users to do when they see your ad. “Without a CTA, your banner ad is little more than a nice image on a webpage,” Karasin insists. Ads are generally clickable so the user can take the next step if they are interested in the offer.
Here, copy is key. Your ad can look beautiful but if users don’t know what to do, you won’t earn the click. “Start with your message, Karasin advises. “Use precise and brief text that sparks curiosity. Asking a question is one good way to do this. Once you have your message, you need to present it in an attractive way.”
A limited time offer can help drive conversions, especially if the offer is appealing.
8. Don’t Get Too Creative.
“Use standard banner sizes, e.g. 728×90px for a leaderboard, or 300×600px for half a page,” says Perry. Standard banner advertising sizes are set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), and different platforms may have their own guidelines for the different sizes that can be used.
9. Watch File Size
While you want to use high-quality images and graphics, you don’t want your ads to load slowly or your user may never see them. “Keep file sizes small, e.g., under 150 kb, so the ads load faster as the user scrolls on a webpage,” Jacobs suggests.
10. Test, Test, Test
Test before you launch to ensure the user experience works smoothly. “Before launching a banner ad campaign, it's important to test the ad to see how it performs,” Walters says. “This will help identify any issues or areas for improvement, such as slow load times, poor click-through rates, or incorrect placement.”
Then test again once you’ve launched. “Oftentimes, we will learn that what we love is not what the audience loves.” Aldea explains. “That's why we should be flexible in our testing, and not fixate over something that only appeals to us.”
Other Things To Consider For Banner Ad Success
In addition to creating a great design, there are other steps you can take to help ensure your ads work.
1. Make It Mobile Friendly. Make sure your ad looks good on all types of devices. Make sure your ad is mobile-friendly,” says Walters. “With more and more people using their smartphones to browse the web, it's critical that your ad looks great on any device. So keep your ad simple and optimized for different screen sizes.”
And it is not just the ad that should be mobile-friendly. “The most common mistake is when a user clicks on a banner ad and is taken to a page that's not designed for mobile,” warns Matt Benton, CEO of NoDig.com and Trenchless Information Center, a resource for finding top-rated contractors for trenchless sewer repair. “This is often the result of not having the right developer or designer working on the project.”
2. Analyze Analytics. You’ll want to utilize analytics to find out elements of your banner advertising works, and to find ways to make improvements. “Experiment and explore different design variations (e.g. background color, CTA color, images and designs) to see what converts the best.” Tweak one thing at a time so you can understand how changes do (or don’t) affect performance.
3. Utilize Keywords. It’s also important to consider the keywords that appear in your ads. “Not using the right keywords for the ad copy (can) affect SEO rankings,” Jacobs warns.
While it may take time to find the right combination of elements, it can be worth the effort. “A successful banner ad is the one that wins your audience's heart and leads to conversions, sooner or later,” says Aldea.