INSIGHTS | Digital Marketing, Email Marketing

Design Principles in Web Ads

In case you haven’t noticed, banner ads on websites and social media apps have gotten incredibly sophisticated. Because web ads are effective at reaching interested audiences, the competition in this space has become brutal.

Today, you can see banner ads with moving parts, changing colors, carousel images, video and audio and much more. One of these days, someone will post a banner ad that will reach out and pluck the viewer’s wallet out of his pocket and make a sale!

Still, with all the competition for eyeballs and the growth of this industry, there are some tried and true principles of web advertising that every marketer should know and follow. These may seem simple, but vast amounts of testing in real markets have demonstrated that the old rules of ad design are still working.

Here are some principles to think about when you look at your online advertising program.

  • Structure

The make-or-break component for a good display ad is its layout. Where you place the important elements of an ad will be critical in determining its success.

Display ads must be distinguishable from normal web page content and have clearly defined borders.

Ads must have a strong yet flexible structure that can adapt to the various ad sizes offered by the platform.

Every web ad should have the following elements:

  • Logo or company name
  • Value proposition (Two-for-one, 50% off, Limited Time Offer, etc)
  • Image or visual
  • Call to action (CTA) button


  • Color

Color plays an important role in the identification of your ad and the public interaction with your brand (think: Coca-Cola and the color red). 

There is an entire industry of color psychology that studies the reaction of consumers to various color palettes. One popular study revealed that men and women react differently to color. Men, overall, have a strong preference for blue (57%) and green (14%), while women tend to prefer blue (35%) and purple (23%). 

There are also color preferences among industries. For instance, in the communications industry, ads tend to feature blue and black, seen as colors that instill trust.

  • Typography

The main rule in selecting typefaces for your web ads is that is its legible.  Designers can get carried away with creative, unusual fonts, but remember that your banner ad is usually quite small. Fancy typefaces can get lost or make the message hard to read.

If your audience can’t read or understand your message, they won’t click on your ad.

  • KISS

The basic principle of Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS) is especially applicable in web ads. Banner ads, small in size and competing against everything else on the web page, must stand out. 

To be effective, your ad must capture the reader’s eye. Either with a great visual, or with a strong headline that quickly sends the message. Remember “Got milk?” Two words that said everything. Simple. And it worked.

  • Graphics

The images you use in your web ads must be unique, noticeable, memorable and “worth a thousand words.”  Studies show that people remember something they saw more frequently than something they read.

Your visual images should spark interest and attract attention. Try to avoid stock photos if you can … custom images are more alluring and interesting to the viewer.

And while graphics should always have that ‘pop’ factor, they shouldn’t detract from the value proposition or the CTA. Every element of your ads should work in harmony with the others.

Fuel Media has a staff of talented graphic designers schooled in these design principles. And we have a track record of producing winning ads for our clients in many different industries.

If you’d like to consult with us to analyze your existing ad program, or to work with you to develop something new, please contact us. We’re here to help!