Publishing And The Dark Art Of UX

For many publishers, user experience (UX) is a bit of a dark art. It is important, but never top of the to-do list. Often reduced to decisions over the color of CTA boxes, location of images or website wire frames, UX is a much wider discipline.

The new ad types means that inventory is varied; the result is that web visitors have a wide range of experiences of advertising. Publishers have it in their power to choose vendors whose products deliver content and advertising in a user-friendly environment.

Characteristics, context, creative

For video advertising, that could mean using video players with the appropriate features. It should also include the environment the player is in. The content and advertising shown also have a huge impact. These aspects are the three-Cs: characteristics, context and creative.

Think of the characteristics of in-stream video as an example: auto-play/sound off is the best experience. In fact, videos that automatically play with sound on is an example of where UX has been disregarded. It’s a sign that a publisher is looking for quick cash at the expense of returning visitors. Click-to-play might mean annoyed visitors don’t have the energy to engage with the video content.



There are plenty of other features to consider too: Is there a pause button? Full screen? Can someone easily purchase the product through overlays or buttons? Shoppable video offers a great experience for retailers and customers alike. They can buy a clothing item without leaving the platform.

And this brings us to context. Users are usually on a journey to discover something – to learn about a topic or research a solution to a problem. When irrelevant advertising interrupts their flow, it negatively impacts their experience. But by integrating it as closely as possible, we can irritate a user less. Serving pre-roll on video content, served within an appropriate context, is one way to do this.

Naturally, serving relevant creative (automotive ads on an article about cars, for example) is the gold standard. This is hard to achieve programmatically, but publishers can look to establish private-marketplaces, or work with their SSP to make it possible.

A change in mind-set

Brand-safety scandals, GDPR, Cambridge Analytica — each of these events came around because we gambled the future away in favor of a quick buck. The pendulum has swung, and now advertisers and publishers are beginning to see the long-term value in users. 

An effective tactic is to undergo an external UX review, or just ask a friend to find some information on your site. Either way, taking a step back and putting yourself in the shoes of a site visitor will offer fresh vision on your site. That’s the power UX. 

Sometimes, publishers will have to make sacrifices, but they’ll see users return more often. The sites that bombard with advertising are ugly, and make it difficult for users to achieve their goal. Pages full of slow-loading, frequently refreshing ad units are not going to survive in the long-run.

Publishers should think how can advertising actually add to the experience.

User experience is a constantly evolving mixture of art and science. It’s a complex discipline, and important to invest time and resources. Create places where people enjoy spending time. Think user-first and work second. Adtech specializes in adapting. And right now, the biggest industry change is toward better user experiences.

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