Good Ads

During a summer internship as a UX Researcher at Google, I led a project to increase understanding of "good" ad experiences. For this project, I designed and conducted a week-long diary study with 50 participants.

Advertisements on electronic billboards in Time Square.

Due to the confidentiality of this project, details pertaining to the actual technology solution cannot be discussed.
The information provided does not necessarily represent the views of Google.

Problem Statement

Typically, advertisements are thought of as a necessary evil of the web. However, every once in a while, the presence of an ad can lead to a new discovery and even a positive user experience. But what are the characteristics that make these experiences good and how can we replicate them intentionally?

Diary Study

Fifty participants from around the country were recruited to participate in an 8-day diary study. During the study, participants were asked to screenshot ads they saw throughout the day and answer questions about each ad using the dScout app. Questions were asked about the context in which they viewed the ad, how they felt about the experience, and what actions they took as a result of seeing the ad. At the end of each day, participants were asked to complete a brief survey about the number of ads they saw as well as their internet use that day.

Woman viewing advertisements on iphone.

Taking a screenshot of online ad

Data Analysis

The study resulted in hundreds of screen shots of ads and corresponding survey responses. The results were categorized into "good" and "bad" ad experiences. Ads were tagged based on their characteristics such as the advertised product or service, and the design components used. Qualitative responses from the users were grouped using affinity diagramming techniques.


Based on the responses from the diary study my team was able to better understand the relationship between ad design elements, contextual variables, user emotions, and user actions. Details of the findings are confidential.

Lessons Learned

Designing a diary study was extremely challenging because the survey questions needed to be detailed enough to yield significant results, but also short enough to fit seamlessly into the daily routines of the participants. Even though the questions were carefully crafted and pilot tested, some users still discontinued their participation before the study was complete. I realized early on that communicating with participants often and creating a rapport helped to keep them engaged throughout the study.

What's next?