UX Review of Facebook’s New Ad Layout

by | May 1st, 2014

Not many people like ads. Well, at least it seems like they’ve been trained not to like them. Personally, I started distrusting ads when I heard about the viruses commonly associated with them. Because of this, I made a habit of avoiding most content that had even the slightest whiff of advertising.

Unless it was relevant to me.

This, I believe, is where Facebook has begun to win users over with their ads. Privacy issues aside, Facebook has evolved its ad experience by catering towards users’ specific interests. For example, if Mary Jane showed trends for clicking on spider-related things, then Facebook would probably throw a bunch of other spider-related content at her—even spider-related superheroes. To her joy, Mary Jane would probably continue participating in this cycle, and Facebook would reap the rewards.

However, Facebook has recently brought it up a notch with its new right-rail ad design. Prior to the change (only one of many, I might add), ads on Facebook still very much looked like ads.

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These are marked by lots of text coupled with small, overly detailed thumbnail images hugging the side of the News Feed. And even though they grew to be more relevant, people had already learned to avoid the general area.

With the new design, Facebook is attempting to gain more user trust among its audience. They are displaying a much cleaner ad experience that fits much closer to the style of the News Feed.

In fact, one might even argue that the new ad design could be mistaken for a shared story on Facebook. They look a lot like your friends’ posts.

I see two possible implications here:

  1. The subtlety of the new ad design will lead to more frequent clicks and perusal of sponsored items

  2. Users may not like this, and might still avoid ads anyway

As one of the hundred of millions of users on Facebook today, I can attest to being attracted to the new style of the ads and clicking on them more frequently. But this is the point of a UX review of Facebook’s new ad layout: I can personally attest to clicking on ads unintentionally. Sometimes I am okay with this, and sometimes I find it to be a negative experience.

The determining factor of my satisfaction is found in the result of my click. If the ad leads me to something I don’t care about, then I will be frustrated. If the ad leads me to something I do care about it, then I will be okay about being interrupted.

Ads are common among websites today, so users expect them. Therefore, the way they are presented will prove the effectiveness of their use in the long run. Increased clicks will certainly produce more revenue for the company hosting them. They key here would be to design an ad so it hits the sweet spot of tempting users to click, but delivering a result that is satisfying. The bait and switch never did gain much customer loyalty.