A recent Alertbox talked about Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings:
The most prominent result from the new eyetracking studies is not actually new. We simply confirmed for the umpteenth time that banner blindness is real. Users almost never look at anything that looks like an advertisement, whether or not it's actually an ad.
The heatmaps also show how users don't fixate within design elements that resemble ads, even if they aren't ads
I guess the most interesting thing about the post is that it acknowledges that unethical methods attract the most eyeballs:
In addition to the three main design elements that occasionally attract fixations in online ads, we discovered a fourth approach that breaks one of publishing's main ethical principles by making the ad look like content:
- The more an ad looks like a native site component, the more users will look at it.
- Not only should the ad look like the site's other design elements, it should appear to be part of the specific page section in which it's displayed.
This overtly violates publishing's principle of separating "church and state" — that is, the distinction between editorial content and paid advertisements should always be clear. Reputable newspapers don't allow advertisers to mimic their branded typefaces or other layout elements.
I think it's particularly important that we don't allow commercial considerations to damage our users' trust in cultural heritage institutions as repositories of impartial* knowledge. We've developed models for differentiating user- and museum-generated content and hopefully quelled fears about user-generated content somehow damaging or diluting museum content; it would be a shame if we lost that trust over funding agreements.
* insert acknowledgement of the impossibility of truly impartial cultural content.