You’ve noticed it. Websites are more in-your-face, lately; in some cases, they’re downright adversarial. Navigating them can be an education in frustration. Ads, videos, pop-ups, overlays, log-in requirements–it’s ridiculous. Advertisements are no longer passive; they’ve even moved beyond passive-aggressive. They’re just plain aggressive, now.
Well, I’m sick of it, and I’m fighting back. Here are my rules for websites. Flout them, and the site goes on my no-fly list. This is the internet, and there’s nothing any website has that I can’t find elsewhere and with less hassle.
These get you an immediate place on my list. No negotiation. No mercy.
- Gatekeeper ads:
You get one–and only one–full-screen ad. I don’t care if it’s an overlay that makes the whole page go dim until I click the “X”, or a “click-through” page I have to maneuver past en route to my desired content, as soon as the second one appears, I’m outta here.
- Guerrilla videos:
You can have video ads, but if they play automatically, you’re on waivers. If they play automatically, with sound, you’re out. I don’t want to be accosted by jingles and bad acting while I’m reading an article (especially late at night), so shut the hell up already.
- Slide show click-bait:
If I have to click more than once to see the next picture, I fire a shot across your bow. If I have to click three times to see three sentences worth of copy and then click a fourth time to see the next picture, you’re dead to me.
- Advert priorities:
If the page tries to load every single advertisement before the text of the article, then hangs there with a blank center while some obscure, slow-as-molasses server dribbles out three rotations on the banner ad, I’m done.
- Sentry posts:
Do not ever expect me to create an account just to browse your store. That’s like me, walking into a brick-and-mortar store, being stopped at the entrance until I surrender my personal info. Not gonna happen, dude.
The following infractions are not as serious as those above, but they can add up. Repeat them or combine a couple and you’re playing with anathematic fire.
- Hyped Headers:
“Shocking.” “… will blow your mind.” “What happened next is …”
You might as well say: “Come waste your time in this rabbit warren of advertisements sprinkled with a few lines of actual content.” Yeah, right, and by “yeah,” I mean, “no.”
- Ads that flicker:
If your advert GIF is distracting, it’s distracting! Knock it off.
- Unsized content:
If you give me text but it jumps up and down while adverts of all sizes load and reformat the page, you’re doing it wrong.
Ads that blatantly mine my data–posting a link to something I just saw on Amazon, or a click-bait headline about how “Seattle finds this web page shocking!“–are annoying and borderline offensive. You’re prying, and it’s obvious, and I don’t like it. I know my internet use isn’t private, but have some tact, guys.
- Bad editing:
At the very least, spellcheck your copy. Repeated errors in grammar or spelling may not get you a quick trip to the cornfield, but it does bring into question your reputation and reliability as a source. Edit, or risk being ignored.
- Captive timeout:
If you put up a video ad before the video I came to watch, I better be able to dismiss it after a few seconds. If I don’t want to watch the ad after five seconds, it hasn’t done it’s job. Making me suffer through a boring, 30-second spot just so I can watch a 20-second cat video isn’t going to win me over to your product.
So, how should it work? How should a website behave but still have adverts?
- Text comes first:
If you don’t give me something to read–if you don’t give me what I came to your site to read–I’m not going to stay. If you give me the text I want in a stable format, you can load as many adverts as you want around it. Just don’t disturb my reading experience.
- Don’t interrupt:
Once I’ve found what I came for, I don’t want to be disturbed, not by pop-up ads, not by obnoxious video feeds. And, yes, covering the thing I’m watching or reading with an overlay (big or small) is an interruption. Have some manners, fer chrissakes.
- Organize your slide shows:
Slide shows that put 8–10 pictures up at a time are cool with me. It’s a good balance between content and the embedded adverts. Just don’t make me click too many times to get to the next set. You’ve been warned.
It’s not that hard. Consider the consumer experience first, and the quality of a website will always improve.
And you won’t lose my business.