Creating Effective Banner Advertisements

When you shop online, thumb through social media on your phone at lunch, or when streaming a movie, it never fails – your internet browsing is distracted by a prominently placed banner ad. Banner advertisements are unavoidable on the World Wide Web as more and more companies use them to advertise and target their consumers. Nevertheless, banner ads should not be dismissed because they are seen as a nuisance. Banners can be advantageous tools to help your business grow.

Banners are a pervasive form of advertising on the internet. For many sites they are an essential source of generating revenue. Banner ads are affordable, measurable, and an effective method of increasing brand awareness for many companies. However, the efficacy and success of any banner can easily be thwarted by a bad design. There is more to creating a banner ad than slapping content and images on a blank canvas. Designing an effective, simple, yet creative banner takes some clever planning and implementation.

How do you capture your viewer’s attention using an ad that may only get a one second glance? In the past using animation, flashing effects, or a myriad of bright colors captured attention well. Today web users are more inquisitive, and capturing a passing glance can be a bit harder using those former techniques since they are commonly seen as warning flags for ads. An ad can be straightforward with viewers. Banner ads can look like an ad and still garner many clicks using these design standards: Simple copy, clean images, a clear call to action, and continuity.


  • Content:  What product or service will you be advertising? You want to succinctly showcase what your brand provides featuring attractive offers, products, limited time specials, etc. Using phrasing such as “25% off”, “Limited time offer”, or “Try it now for FREE.” Sizing and positioning of the text is important. You can instill a sense of urgency to your message by using contrasting or bold colors or large text in your headline. Banner ads are not always meant to be subtle; however, less is more. Remember not to use cursive fonts, extremely thin fonts, or script style fonts if you can help it. All caps can feel threatening or too excited. And, all lowercase letters smaller than a 10pt font are cautioned against unless using in a disclaimer.
  • Imagery:  Using images is effective but not always necessary. On the contrary, there are very effective ads that simply use an eye-catching image, a logo, and a call to action. Choose images that are relevant and that enhance your message. The image should directly be related to your client’s promotion or product – no abstract or generic concepts here. You also want to include the client’s logo in this category, but separate from the main imagery of the ad. If you don’t have an appropriate image, there are thousands of licensed stock photos you can use that are affordable and readily available on the internet.
  • Call to Action:  This is usually made up of text or a button graphic with phrases like “learn more”, “click here,” or “Register Now.” The call to action should be a focal point in the ad that prompts viewers to click on the banner. Depending on the banner, the call to action does not need to be an actual button. However, the appearance of a button has been known to increase your clicks.
  • Continuity: As a designer research your client’s website to get a feel of what they are currently promoting, what colors they use, and any design elements they might employ on their site. Reaching out to the client for their company’s branding guidelines is always the best idea. The banner ad you create will link to a landing page about the promotion in your ad. Make sure it looks consistent with the company’s branding and the landing page it will link to prevent any confusion. A good idea is to create the banner so it compliments the client’s website.

Below are some helpful miscellaneous tips for creating a successful banner ad:

  • Adding a frame:  Viewers’ eyes are drawn to objects inside of frames, symmetrical patterns, and tend to follow content in a natural reading pattern (left-to-right/top-to-bottom – depending on country and culture). Bring your graphics edge-to-edge if your ad uses a lot of color. If your ad is mainly white, use a 1 pixel dark border around the edge of the ad to help it separate from the background of the website which will feature the ad. Adding a bit of blur to the edge can make the ad stand out a bit more from the background. Conversely, breaking outside of the “box” and being creative with your design can only make your banner more noticeable. Don’t be afraid to be creative with your designs so long as you stay within the parameters of design specs.
  • Optimize and use proper file formats: When saving your banner ad make sure to optimize and save your banner in an appropriate file format. However you design your banners,  save them in the following three types of files, which are acceptable file formats: .JPG, .GIF, or .PNG files. Also, it is important to save small by optimizing your files for the web. You can use the “save for web” feature in Adobe Photoshop or use Adobe Fireworks to optimize your banner ads to the appropriate file size. Try to keep your banners under 110kb. When a website loads, you want your banner to load quickly. You don’t want a viewer to scroll down the page and miss your banner because it took too long to load.
  • Animation:  When used effectively, adding animation to a banner can be a great tool. Typically, animated ads out-perform static banner ads since they have a tendency to capture the attention of viewers faster. Ad servers sometimes limit animation loops to 30 seconds so be aware of the duration of your animations. Also, animated banners tend to save as larger files depending on the complexity of each animated frame so be careful to keep animations simple.

Hopefully this advice will help you plan your next banner campaign with ease. Although each designer works differently from the next, the goal is the same – to create effective banners for clients. Banner ads may have a negative stigma, but they are far from becoming a thing of the past. The space and audience is out there for the taking. It is up to designers to create effective banners so that advertisers can reach their full potential in order to generate the traffic they are seeking.