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Ad Experience


UX Research


To understand what a good online ad experience is, and how it affects users’ attitudes and behavior.

In a UX research class during spring of 2019, our team worked with an industry client, and we conducted foundational/exploratory research on ad experiences. Our client was interested in understanding what makes up good online experiences at a high level, and we narrowed down the scope to online shopping ads.

We employed qualitative UX research methods including diary studies, reaction cards, and interviews to understand the components that define good ad experiences, and how they affect users’ attitudes and behaviors.

MY role

Owner of Reaction Cards study, helped with screening, recruiting, and conducting Diary Studies and Interviews

Time frame

8 weeks



Scope + Research Goal

We started off with the high-level questions asked by our client: What makes up a "good ad" experience in web, mobile, app environments? What do these ads lead users to do?

We conducted some initial research on online ad experiences, and found industry research results like Coalition for Better Ads and Google’s Ad Experience Report. These reports outlined forms and contents of an ad that would annoy or evoke negative emotions, and gave advice to avoid making these ads.

Our team decided to narrow down the scope of “ad experiences”, in order to test users’ attitudes and actions. We chose shopping ads, because the effect of a shopping ad experience is easier to define and measure, and they are more representative of the ads that an average user would encounter online.

With that, here are our research questions:

  • What components (ad content, ad creative, ad contexts, etc.) define a good ad experience?

  • How do good ad experiences affect users’ attitudes and behaviors?

With a focus on users with the following profile:

  • Adult (over 18), comfortable with technology

  • Frequent online shopper - at least 3 times/week (any form of online shopping including browsing, purchasing, etc.)

It also became clear as we delved deeper into the research project that given the time constraint of the semester and limited equipments/tools, our research will be foundational and exploratory in nature, employing mainly qualitative research methods.



Selection + Screening

We recognized that “good” is a generic term that can take on different meanings to different people, so we selected research approaches that’ll provide us with rich qualitative data, allow us to ask open-ended questions, and give participants opportunities to define what’s a “good” ad experiences to them.

We chose to conduct diary study with 15 recruited participants, 5 of whom were selected to participate in in-person interviews and reaction cards study, based on their geographic locations, availability, and quality/completeness of dairy study responses.

The studies were conducted in that order so that we could gain a overview of how people view/interact with ads online from diary study, follow up with their response in a more in-depth interview, and then wrap up seeing how they prioritize different qualities that fit their definition of a “good” ad experience.

We recruited participants for diary studies from words of mouth in our circles, and 18 of them passed a screening survey to ensure that they match our targeted user profile.


Diary Study

  • Length: 5 days

  • Frequency: Daily entry per participant

  • Medium: Google Forms and Email Reminders

  • Compensation: Drink (up to $5)

  • Participants: 18 (3 dropped, so 15 in effect)

  • Procedure: participants upload screenshots of ads that they considered “good” ad experiences and answer related questions.

We received ~70 responses total and proceeded to further analyze the data. Three themes seem to emerge: visual appeal, how straightforward and concise the ad content was, and relevancy to the user.



Our Team: JMPN on Ads

Jeanny Xu, Maggie Chen, Prasad Gaikwad, Nathan Khuu.