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The Pervasiveness of Text Advertising Blindness

Justin W. Owens, Evan M. Palmer, and Barbara S. Chaparro

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 9, Issue 2, February 2014, pp. 51 - 69


Users of websites tend to ignore text advertisements, especially when they are on the right side of a web page, even when the advertisements are useful for completing a task. This study explores the impact of web page layout conventions on text advertising blindness and how quickly users adapt to websites that violate layout conventions. Participants performed search tasks on either “standard” or “nonstandard” website layouts. In the nonstandard website, content from the left (i.e., navigation menu) and the right side of the website (i.e., text advertisements) were reversed. Results demonstrated that text advertising blindness was prevalent regardless of the website layout. Users adapted to the reversed layout rapidly, but at a cost of perceived mental effort and task success. Analyses of eye movement data showed that users had a tendency to fixate first in the standard location for the navigation menu when using the nonstandard website, but did not fixate more often in that location after the first few trials. A decrease in text ad blindness over time for the standard, but not the nonstandard, website design also was observed. Practitioners are advised not to violate web layout norms in an attempt to draw more attention to web advertisements. This strategy may be counterproductive where it may actually increase text advertising blindness and decrease the usability of the website.

Tips for Usability Practitioners

Practitioners can use the following suggestions that are based on the findings of this study:

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The Pervasiveness of Text Advertising Blindness