8 best practices for banner ads

Banner ads. They’re not always pretty, but companies of all sizes rely on this measurable and effective medium to increase brand awareness and drive sales. Once you’ve written some killer copy and bought ad space close to the main content of a highly-trafficked webpage, you’ll need to choose a design and bring in those clicks. Below is a list of banner ad design tips and general guidelines.

1. Start with the basics

Make sure your banner ads include these three components.

Your company logo: To build brand awareness, your logo should have a strong presence.

The value proposition: Tell viewers how they can benefit from your unique offering.

The call to action: The CTA should be a standout focal point of the ad, prompting viewers to click.

2. Stick to standard dimensions, formats and sizes

Dimensions: According to Google Adsense the most successful banner ad sizes are 336 x 280 (large rectangle), 300 x 250 (medium rectangle), 728 x 90 (leaderboard) and 160 x 600 (wide skyscraper).

Formats: You'll need a .JPG or .PNG file for static ads and a .GIF or .SWF format for animated versions.

Size: The smaller the better, and always under 150 kb, according to Google Adwords.

3. Keep the design simple and instantly readable

Cut the visual clutter. Viewers are only going to glance at your banner for a few seconds. For readability, make your headline and body copy different sizes and keep your text to four lines or less. Stay away from cursive and thin fonts, and keep your size at 10 point or larger.

4. Give your ad a clearly defined frame

People's eyes are naturally drawn to a subject inside a frame. Give your banner ad a clearly defined border with graphics that extend to the edges of the box.

5. Stay consistent with your company's branding

Your banner ad is going to link to a landing page about the offer in your ad, so make sure the designs look consistent with each other and your company's overall branding.

6. Use imagery when you need it

Choose relevant images, graphics or photos that enhance your message and that are directly related to your product. No abstract concepts here. Can't afford professional photography or supermodels? Buy an affordable license for a stock photo. There are millions of high quality ones out there. But it's not always necessary to use photos or images in your ads. Text ads with killer copy and nice typography can be just as effective.

7. Instill a sense of urgency

Make sure your ad brings a sense of visual urgency to the text with the use of contrasting, bold color schemes and eye-catching images and text. Web ads are not meant to be subtle.

8. Consider using animation

Animated ads often outperform static banner ads, but you have to make sure that they don't distract from your ad's message. Use simple animations that last no more than 15 seconds, and include a call to action on the last frame. Make sure that they don't loop more than three times.

And there you have it. These are some general design guidelines, and there's definitely room for experimentation with each. It's also important to note that a good banner ad is not judged on how pretty it looks, it's judged on its performance. They're not the most beautiful form of media, but for now, banner ads are here to stay.


Jason Sew Hoy

Jason Sew Hoy

COO at 99designs

An early member of 99designs, the worlds largest online graphic design marketplace, Jason has been instrumental in the company's rapid 5­ year growth and global expansion. As Chief Operating Officer and Asia­ Pacific General Manager, he is passionate about product strategy, user experience, internationalisation and creating a high­ performance product development team.

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Neil Steggall

Neil Steggall , Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Thanks Jason, a great check list which I have just forwarded to our marketing team!

Ling Lee

Ling Lee , at Digital Marketing and Personal Branding

Jason thanks again for the informative article!