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Skate around web ad restrictions with foresight and proper planning

Added on Saturday 22nd of March 2008 07:32 am EST
 
Application:
Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3
Operating Systems:
Microsoft Windows, Macintosh


Designing elaborate web ads is a tricky process. Clients often want more than you can fit in a tiny ad space, and file-size limitations force you to compress your content creatively. But don’t let that discourage you; we’ll show you how, with proper planning, you can maximize your web ad’s message and keep your clients happy too!

To design around web ad restrictions, we’ll:
 

  • Detail the information you need from your client before you begin designing any web ad.
  • Provide you with tips on how to handle the most difficult layout restrictions.
  • Illustrate how different variables will affect an animated web ad’s file size.
  • Give you some alternative suggestions you can offer your client to trim off those last unwanted kilobytes.

Creating effective web ads is a tricky endeavor, especially considering all the restrictions you have to work with. Trying to fit large words across a skinny skyscraper ad or simply getting all the components to lay out well in the limited space of any size web ad is frustrating. Not to mention file size; keeping a static JPEG at 20KB isn’t too difficult to achieve, but an animated GIF is another story. Add your client to the list of web ad tribulations, who, unaware of these limitations, often have lofty design requests. But don’t throw in the towel; rise to the challenge with a well mapped-out plan of attack.

Web ad sizes
File size limitation isn’t necessarily entirely at the whim of the website designer or the hosting company. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB, www.iab.net) is an agency that maintains voluntary standards for web ad sizes and dimensions. While this isn’t an enforced law for which the web ad police will come and strip your ad off a site, the IAB implemented these guidelines to drive an industry standard. And many web publishers, advertisers and agencies adhere to these standards.

Plan your ad specs
Before you even begin thinking about laying out a web ad, you should get clarification on specifications. Some important details to have up front are as follows:
  • Ad dimensions. You don’t want to lay out content in a 120-x-600-pixel format only to find out your client actually wanted a 234-x-60-pixel ad size. That’s a lot of rework.
  • Maximum file size. Knowing the file size limit up front is extremely important. With this information in mind, you can test your Save For web and export options as you lay out the web ad. This will help you to see if you are on the right track, if you need to trim content or if you actually have room to add that last frame.
  • Animation needs. If you’re doing animation, you also need to know how many frames your client wants, because this makes a difference in file size. The more frames there are, the larger the file size.
  • Animation specifications. If your client requests animation, find out if it needs to loop once or continuously. It’s usually effective to have the animation loop once or twice to catch the viewer’s eye—more than that becomes an annoyance.
  • Ad content. Do you need to write the copy, or will your client supply that for you? You want to make sure that there isn’t too much copy, because web ads don’t offer a lot of working room. Concerning text, you’ll want to keep your point size larger than 10 pt if possible, because anything smaller than that becomes illegible.
You’ll find it’s a lot easier to design a web ad when you get all the details up front. For more information on designing web ads, see our companion article “Add impact to your animated web ads by designing in reverse,” in this issue of Inside Photoshop.

So much to say, so little space
Not all web ads ...