You go to a website to read something, but you can’t find the content because the top of the page is filled with banner ads and website branding. What you want to read isn’t even visible when you go to the page, you have to scroll half way down before you even see the top of the article you want to read.
This horrendous website design has been bothering me for a while now and it really came to a head when I went to Fangoria’s website today to read an article someone posted on Facebook (*Please Note: although other sites are guilty of the same crime, I’m going to use Fangoria as an example because it was their page that stoked my ire this morning).
I’ve seen a lot of bad websites, but most of them have been amateur efforts by people who think hundreds of dancing gopher gifs on a page is a hoot. On a professional website there is no excuse for this. It’s a kin to getting the New York Times, and the whole area "above the fold" (to use newspaper terms) is filled with print ads and no headlines or news.
On Fango’s site, there were four banner ads, one of which is for their Dead Time Stories pod cast; two of the same 545 by 250 slide show boxes, advertising the magazine or, again, Dead Time Stories; a 300 by 250 pixel box asking people to friend Fangoria on Facebook when they already have a 50 by 50 button; and that’s not counting the Fangoria masthead, user login bar (which has the above mentioned 50 by 50 Facebook button) and menu bar. All of that is above the fold, taking up every pixel of space when the page first loads. The real content is so far down you can’t see it, or "below the fold" to use newspaper speak again.
Such clutter makes it unattractive for readers to frequent such sites on a daily basis. I don’t go to Fangoria’s site for my horror related news and the site design is one reason. Don’t get me wrong, the overall design is nice and ties in with the magazine. And I’m sure the posts are informative, if I didn’t have to scroll and scroll and scroll all the way down to read them that is.
So why would a magazine, that’s had a web presence for over ten years, make you dig for your content like this?
I can only speculate, but here is my two cents on the issue. First, print magazines are becoming a dying industry. People have abandoned buying paper hard copies and go online for their information. Why buy a magazine who’s data is already a month to two months old when you can get up to the minute news on your favorite subjects with a click of a mouse? Many magazines that lasted for decades have closed up shop. The magazines that are surviving rely on their websites to generate extra money through ads.
I’m sure someone, maybe a marketing person at Fangoria, said, “Gee, if one banner ad generates X amount of cents every month then a whole bunch will make us even more money! And while we’re at it, we’ll put in a bunch of our ads to maximize the branding of our business. I’m a genius! Now where did I put that Red Bull?”
Here is the problem with that logic. If you top load your site with ads, even ads for your own stuff, people aren’t going to hit your site that often. If people don’t hit your site that often because of said ads blocking the content they want to read, they will to other sites to read that content. When people don’t go to your site, you don’t make money from the ads. I’m sure the only thing stopping the marketing person from filling the entire page with ads was those pesky little articles that bring people to the website in the first place.
And you don’t have to go over the top advertising your own stuff on your site, one little slide show box is fine. I like slide show boxes, they takes up less real estate on the page (that is, if you don’t put more than one on that page) and can still advertise your pod cast, magazine and anything else you want to let your readers know about.
If I was to redesign Fangoria’s website, I’d take out all the banner ads at the top except for one. I’d keep the masthead, then have the banner ad, followed by the login bar, and menu bar in that order. Then one (only one) slide show box. Also I’d make darn sure that the article or other content is prominently visible "above the fold".
Okay, that’s my rant for the day.