Friday, September 10, 2010

Banner Blindness

Banner blindness is a condition caused by poorly planned websites displaying an overwhelming amount of content: confusing images, animations, popups, and (especially) banners. In response the user tunes out, often ignoring important content in the process.

Mobility is important in bringing banner blindness to the attention of developers and designers. The fashion for stripped down, minimalist site design is a product of smart-phones with web access requiring low bandwidths and content on the move.

With the increasing popularity and development of Augmented Reality (AR) technologies and practices banner blindness is bound to become a potentially crucial factor in transport demand. Unlike virtual reality, where the user is immersed in an online environment, users of AR actively engage with the real-world. AR is currently restricted to smart-phone apps that layer content over a recorded image of the user surroundings or to in-vehicle technologies that project information on the windscreen. But future technologies are anticipated to be much more engaged, such as AR glasses that completely cover the eyes and display information on the lenses controlled by haptic wrist-bands or remote controls.

An unintended consequence of this revolution in AR is the potential for banner blindness to impact upon travel safety, efficiency, and infrastructure. A spate of recent pedestrian accidents highlights this growing issue. In Australia, where urban centres are often divided by intensive traffic, 'iPod Zombies' - pedestrians that are oblivious to their surroundings due to music players and loud or in-ear noise-cancelling headphones - are a growing issue. Gulf News 9 September 2010 In New South Wales a 25 per cent increase in the pedestrian death toll has been attributed to music players. Herald Sun 6 September 2010

'Podestrians' are at much greater risk than pedestrians due to sustained sensory deprivation in unsafe urban environments. Access Legal 23 August 2010 As information demands grow a range of technologies including games consoles, mobiles, and entertainment devices is changing the behavioural fabric of public space. Guardian 25 August 2010

Thus transport planners face a future world of information-rich but sensory-deprived individuals at risk from the increasingly hectic and unsafe urban environment. No wonder the new British government is seeking councils to remove bollards, advertising and other forms of 'street clutter'. Public Finance 27 August 2010 In a data-rich but under-regulated Big Society AR is sure to be a source of many unintended consequences that impact upon how people travel.

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