Viewer blindness in design layout

Many many studies have been done of where do a persons eyes look on a web page, its a multi million dollar investment in study and research. Banner blind is a term coined some years ago, due to viewer dislike of ad banners, mainly due to over use, to the point that any design element that even looks like a banner will be ignored.

Now comes a new kind of blindness.. the top/side area of a page. For the same reason, adverts and their over use. We all have become very used to not paying the least bit of attention to anything at the top section and often both sides of a page. Why ? Because we know that on far too many sites, those areas are devoted to advertisement. So if the page appears to have the same layout, even if the top and sides are relevant information, it will be ignored as if it were the same trashy averts we have all come to dislike so much.

However, at the same time, viewers tend to look in the same places all the time for relevant information, those same areas. So how to jolt the viewer out of the blind state, and help them "see" the data ?

You have to get creative :)

Static: Most averts on those tops and sides tend to move about and shift and change in an attempt to drag the viewers eyes to them. There is good sound reason for that, as human eyes are very good at picking up such visual cues. However, we are also very good at ignoring "useless" visual information. So if your navigation is in that now often ignored side area, which it very likely is, break the cycle by keeping it still. Do not give in to the temptation of roll overs, or mouse overs or any the java or CSS style events that make things jump, shift or shake.

CSS style Color highlights and the like can be useful as an exception, as it makes for high contrast, and given that the largest  increases in the net viewer population, are Sr. Citizens, this can be a good move for the sake of high visablity, but take care not to overdo them.

Color: Most often the adverts are not that colorful. They learned that bright and blaring didn't work so stopped that in favor of more tasteful banners. That's your advantage however, have your relevant data in those areas ? Use color, bright colors, make the navigation etc., stand out and be noticed. High color CCS mouse over highlighting, as mentioned above, is a simple way to accomplish this.

Break the format:

The most common layout currently used is an inverted U where the relevant information is the middle of the page. Your task, to create a layout that does not even remotely resemble that, on purpose. Use the entire page for the important data and in effect force the viewer to really "look" at the page.

It does tend to defy the rule that says "People spend all their time on other sites" meaning you want a layout that resembles those others to where the viewer does not have to figure out where to look. However, since so many have abused the trust of the viewer, feeding them unwanted information with this all too common layout, you have to defy that rule somewhat to get their attention on what you want them to see.

You do want easy to follow navigation of a type they don't have to think about to find, but need it in a format that they will "see".

In a word, it comes down to, use the baseline elements of a common style, but do it in an uncommon way. This requires a lot of thought and planning of course, but the end result is worth it.

Now it goes without saying, but I will say it anyway if you want the respect of your viewer, do not give in to the temptation of putting these same averts on your site. Yes you might make a bit of money off them from time to time, but is the bit you make in avert money worth the loss of sales for your own product ?

It's up to the site holder to chose of course, but over all, studies prove the amounts you might make on them, are not worth the loss of customers you will indeed lose by overloading the site with these advertisements. You are much better served by making the site pay for itself in the manner intended, with your own products, not hawking someone else's.

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