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Ad-supported app guidelines

apps for Office and SharePoint

Learn about guidelines that will help you design a better user experience (UX) in your ad-supported apps for Office and SharePoint.

Last modified: April 24, 2015

Applies to: apps for Office | apps for Office Mix | apps for SharePoint | Office 365 | Office Add-ins | SharePoint Add-ins

Note Note

The names "apps for Office" and "apps for SharePoint" are changing to "Office Add-ins" and "SharePoint Add-ins". During the transition, the documentation and the UI of some Office and SharePoint products and Visual Studio tools might still use the terms "apps for Office" and "apps for SharePoint". For details, see New name for apps for Office and SharePoint.

In this article
Consider user experience vs. revenue when using ads
Don’t obstruct content or functionality
Minimize sound and video-based ads
Differentiate ads from content and functionality
Avoid inappropriate ad content
Use standard size and location for ads
Additional resources

Although many businesses do not accept ads in the apps they use and are willing to pay for an app without ads, smaller businesses or individuals might be willing to accept a free app that is ad-supported.

When your app is ad-supported, you might feel like your design is being pulled in two distinct and opposing directions. Users generally don’t want ads in their experiences, but the more prominently you place your ad units, the more likely they are to be noticed or clicked. When deciding how to prioritize user experience versus revenue, keep in mind that users will stop using an app that doesn’t add value for them. The validation policies for the Office Store require that your app provide significant value beyond the ads themselves. The best design makes the ads available without affecting the flow and functionality of the app itself. For more information, see 1. Apps provide value to the Office Store customer in Validation policies for apps submitted to the Office Store (version 1.8).

These guidelines will help clarify how to use ads inside your apps in a way that makes end users happy while still enabling you to support your app with advertising.

Whenever ads are present, they should not obstruct the user’s content or ability to get to the actual functionality of the app. You should not use ads that overlay content or pop up new windows. Ads should not push important functionality off-screen based on a minimum browser window size of 1024 x 768px. For more information, see 2. Office Store apps can display certain ads.

Avoid using ads that play videos or make noises without explicit user actions, including mouse-over events. Only an explicit "play" action should start video or sound. After being started, any video or sound must have standard controls for volume and pause/resume.

In general, you should use these sound and video-based ads sparingly, if at all. Sound and video tend to strongly distract users from the app experience.

Ads should be clearly differentiated from content and functionality in the app. Users should never be confused about whether they are seeing an ad or regular content. Here are some of the ways that you can differentiate ads from content and functionality in your apps:

  • Display small print in the region of the screen that is showing the ad. For example, you could add "Advertisement" or "Ad by Contoso" in small print above the ad.

  • Use a different background color or font style for the ad content.

  • Use special border treatments around the ad.

  • Use a layout placement away from regular content.

If you choose to incorporate advertisements in the middle of your content (for example, between updates in a newsfeed or scattered across a map or grid view), make sure that all ads are clearly identified as such. The abbreviation "ad" in a conspicuous corner of the advertisement may be sufficient, but you may need a more prominent indicator if this is easily lost in the page. For more information, see 5. Apps put the customer in control.

Ads are subject to the same policies as the content in an app. In general, ads (or any element in your app) must not contain inappropriate content. For more information, see 6. Apps are appropriate for a global audience.

Make sure that the ads don't take the focus away from the app’s content. Standard display ad sizes generally fit well across the top or bottom of SharePoint pages or on the right sidebar, which is where users typically expect advertisements. If you use non-standard display ad sizes, you still have to differentiate the ad from the content, as mentioned earlier in this article.

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