Ever wondered why it’s so hard to control the ads you see on social media? You’re not alone. A recent study dug into how to improve this for users, and it turns out, it might be all about design.

What’s the Problem?

A lot of us have a hard time finding the settings that let us control which ads pop up based on our personal information. The problem? Social media designers usually have to choose between a simple design or a busier one that makes the ad settings more obvious. Most go for the cleaner look.

Surprising Findings

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon University in August 2022, found something interesting: users might actually prefer a busier design if it means they can easily control their ads.

For this study, they focused on Facebook. They found that users typically had to click around at least five times on three different pages to adjust most of their ad settings. Jane Im, one of the study’s authors and a student at Michigan, helped the team develop two easier ways to reach these settings. Both were created as additions for the desktop version of Facebook.

And guess what? When these settings were more visible, people found them easier to use and even rated them more favorably. That’s a big win for user experience.

What Users Really Want

Jane Im believes that while a lot of apps aim for a simple design, people might actually prefer designs that prioritize controlling ad settings. Users might even be okay with sharing some of their interests with platforms like Facebook if it means they see more relevant ads. But, it’s essential to give them that choice.

She emphasizes that it’s all about understanding users. “Platforms could potentially design a feature that asks users about their ad-related needs,” says Im. This would allow companies to provide more tailored options for each user group.

Getting feedback from users about their ad preferences can be beneficial for everyone. Users get to see ads they care about, and companies get clearer insights into what interests their audience.

In response to the study, a representative from Meta, Facebook’s parent company, stated that they continuously work with experts to refine their settings to make them more user-friendly.

In short, the key to better ad experiences on social media might just be in giving users more straightforward ways to control what they see.