Stop it!

Have you ever visited a website or blog to find that it’s almost completely impossible to use due to factors like too many display ads, annoying overlays or paginated pages of an article? That stuff is terrible for conversions and how you should tailor your content to get the best out of your users’ experience. Without your users, you’re never going to get anywhere so Stop it!.

I’m not the only voice in this matter. As a pre-requisite, I recommend you to check out Brad Frost’s thoughts as well as his talk titled Death To Bullshit. While his post is a year old already, too many websites are still practicing these bad habits. Why the hell do you want to annoy your users? Earn their trust the real way and you’ll get where you want to be.

This post is a collection of all the annoying techniques many websites try to either get you to opt into something or just try to keep you on the page longer. Let’s stop this madness by calling the guilty parties out on their crime! Again if you’re one of them Stop it!

Before I digress, yes this blog has display ads. You’ll find that most do. My goal is to not obstruct the content. I’ll never employ an overlay approach to getting you to sign up for a newsletter or some dumb bullshit. This is my promise to you, the user. Ok, now read on!

The Infamous Overlay

Ugly annoying overlays

You’ve all experienced these pieces of shit. You visit a website and in about one minute or less an annoying overlay pops up to get you to try and opt into something you don’t want to. Usually this is an e-mail newsletter subscription form or something you could easily have displayed somewhere else on your website but NO let’s put it in an overlay and keep the user from doing what they came to your website for in the first place. I don’t want to like your Facebook page or download a freebie either so Stop it!.

Mega Distraction Overload

Quit overloading the user. They can’t even read the content. What makes you think they are going to stick around?

When I visit a website I want to see information (the whole point of the internet). Please for the love of God, don’t show me endless amounts of ads in the content or in between the header and footer of the page. You’re trying too hard and totally distracting from the content itself. Check out the image and count how many distractions you have to try and ignore to view the content you wanted to see in the first place. Stop it!

Don’t Paginate An Article

Paginated articles are the devil

We get it you want more page views and impressions. Do we care? Hell no!. If you’re going to write articles for the masses then let the masses read it like a normal human being would. Top to bottom, left to right (in the U.S.), a group of words together is a sentence. Groups of sentences are paragraphs. This is called reading. Hell, even throw an image in there if you want. This is what we want. Not what you see over at Stop it!

Where The Hell Is The Content?

I have no idea what I’m looking at here

I should not have to scroll to see the content I came to see. Making a website look cool is one thing but making it completely unusable and annoying while doing so is another. Way to go Fast Company. First off, there’s a nice massive ad above the page header. That sure seems annoying. Second, for some reason they thought adding a huge image at the top of each article seemed like a good idea. I wonder if they thought about each user having to scroll each and every page visit? This alone keeps me from ever visiting this website other than to prove this point. Yuck! Stop it!

Page Speed

Pretty astonishing that a blog about web design has terrible page load times.

Some ads are ok but when I have to wait extra time so your 100 display ads to load in order to view the content I came to see you can be that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I doubt I’m the only one. This page over at took me a whopping 79 seconds to load from start to finish. What the hell? Stop it!

Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

Your blog needs content yes. What it doesn’t need is a massive amount of categories of content. I don’t want to sift through business articles to get to design related articles. Your content will be way better if you choose to stick with a few categories you specialize in. No blog has ever succeeded by writing about absolutely anything. Refine your content to a niché so your users can benefit and also put trust towards the fact that your content is legitimate and not just a pile of garbage. Stop it!

Sponsored Posts

If the content is useful these may be ok but most likely someone just got paid and you or your users suffered as a result.

Sponsored posts are just as good as any blog post, but they are also pretty damn annoying. A lot of well-established blogs go this route for compensation from the author in return. I get it, we all need to keep the lights on but is it truly necessary to distract your readers with some one-off post about some product or service they probably won’t be interested in anyways? I’m torn on this approach. While it’s win-win for both the blog owner and sponsor I can’t say that the user benefits much so I suggest you Stop it!

Autoplaying Video/Audio Ads

Please stop this!

Seriously. Stop it. I don’t even need to explain why.

Finishing up

In the end, a website that produces content at a rapid rate needs to monetize somehow to stay in operation. I think everyone understands this concept, but the way bloggers are going about it this day and age is pretty ridiculous. So many methods of utter bullshit are thrown at you like garbage. Why is it so hard to find the information we want? Why make it such a challenge? Is it truly worth it or are you just trying to annoy your users? If you are then please Stop it! and I’ll add another Stop it! for good measure. Sheesh!

  • I also hate these practices a lot! Thank you for remember how websites should be to respect the visitor and the users!

  • I agree as I’m sure most would that these things are annoying to the reader but I’d be more interested in reading your take on how website owners might move away from these various interruptions and annoyances and continue to monetise their sites as you have a fairly simplistic take on the matter of “stop doing it” which for larger sites with significant ad revenues may not exactly be a useful suggestion.

    • Totally agree with your idea. I may do a follow up post to offer alternative ideas in which blogs and websites can still advertise but not disrupt the content, which is the focus. Thanks for the comment!

      • Steve

        I’d be very interested in that article.

    • Phil T Tipp

      What? Wait a minute, are you saying that we should put up with this shit because “larger sites with significant ad revenues” are clinging to a moribund advertising model which sprays well-intentioned users with mindless ad-bullshit left, right and centre? Which prostitutes our eyeballs, for example, with painful paginated fvcking articles, for the sake of page-impression and ad-serve counts?I do not care about their ad revenues or business woes. None of us do. I care about smooth, pleasant, light, thoughtful, well-engineered user experience. Thankfully, an array of ad-blockers help to mitigate the shower of constant crapulence – however, they are but a bandaid on a gunshot wound, and those sites which express this cancerous behaviour may well die on the operating table before meaningful change can be effected.

  • Tea Drinker

    I have worked at agencies where this was the ‘go to’ practices for engaging with users. It was really caring less about the web and more about making a quick buck with a quick plugin.

  • I was just jotting down techniques the very same as these that bug me so much! Especially the box pop up either upon visiting the home page of the site or when it “knows” that you are about to leave the site. News websites I frequent using the autoplay videos are way overkill. I don’t want to see a video advertisement, I just want to get the news. I’d prefer sidebar ads if anything as long as they aren’t flashing like the popups of yesteryear.

    • I can not agree with you more. I totally forgot about the popups that occur when you try to leave a page. I’ll have to add that to the list!

    • Barbra

      I agree Haley. The one when you leave the site is by far the worst, completely breaking the rhythm of what you are doing and forcing you back onto a page you are done with.

  • Ethan Mitchell

    I totally agree, the only thing I will mention is that it might be worth thinking twice if you’re going to tell others to stop running adverts on a site where you post page is populated by three adverts itself.

    But despite that a true post and I have to say a beautifully designed website – nice to see popular posts being sidelined and those annoying tags hidden!

    • This is I am guilty of, I actually stated at the beginning of the article that I do use display ads on (pretty much all blogs do) BUT what I don’t try to do is disrupt you from seeing the content first and foremost. You won’t see any popups or the things I’ve mentioned in the article on this site.

      • And this is why I enjoy reading posts on web-crunch and other sites, that respect the user. We all work in marketing to some degree whether we want to admit it or not. We need to always have the user/consumer in mind when we do anything.

      • BJ

        LOL Until I hovered, I thought your Google ad at the right in the beginning of your content was an example, not an actual ad block. It doesn’t slow down the page but it seemed a little odd placement considering the topic of this piece. And the ad I was served had a headline “The Next Step in Evolution” watch the video…

        Best regards,

        • Yep, It’s a blog. Display ads are here to stay unfortunately. My article doesn’t really digress into those but rather the overuse of them. You could still read the content right? That’s my goal despite having the need to keep display ads on the site.

  • Marius

    Oh these overlays!! Really, STOP IT! Please make a petition to the god of internet to ban this stuff…

    They’re even worse if programmed badly. Some overlays appear if you move your mouse to the top left/right corner to “prevent” you from leaving them… and have bugs so the show up every time you move your mouse in that particular area.

    Some show up as soon as you scroll down a bit – asking you for being best facebook friends forever but keep forgetting that you said “NO don’t spam me!” and ask you over and over again 🙁

  • R Maitri

    Thank you!
    I thought I was just “old school” in that I design to optimize communication instead show off.
    I hold to the philosophy of one of most comprehensive yet simple design books in the history of design, “Looking Good in Print.” Paraphrasing the text: Don’t let design get in the way of communication. Design should be like the work that goes on behind the scenes at a stage performance. The audience came to see the performance.

  • I agree with you all the way (also loved the Brad Frost video).

    Unfortunately, stats have shown that those annoying overlays…work.

    I guess they’re not going to go away. 🙁

    • This is exactly what I was going to say.

      Last year I went to a conversion conference called… Conversion Conference (effin’ creative name) and they talked about how effective those overlays asking for your email actually are. People DO fill those forms out.

      Some speculation says that they are effective because not because users may necessarily be interested in the offer, but because of dark patterns or dark UX methodologies: Close button very small or not even present; no way to close the overlay other than filling out the form; or to close it users need to click/tap outside the container or use ESC key… but there’s no ESC key on mobile devices.

      Shitty reality if you ask me…

  • Just because you, as a non-chalant user don’t appreciate many of these practices, doesn’t mean they don’t get the user to do what the owner of the site wants them to do.

    This really isn’t about UX – it’s about you being annoyed. Well, too bad. Most of these sites are about running business and having a balance between what a user wants and what the business needs from the user in order to make money and keep running.

    • It’s totally about UX. The experience is being destroyed in effort to make money. While it works for many sites, I and probably many others, won’t say it’s the best approach to provide the richest experience. I run this site and have the same problems you stated so I actually do care.

    • lex2000

      If this isn’t about UX I don’t know what is. This is at its very basis about UX. You know that does mean “user experience”, right?

  • Kevin

    Awesome post!!! Auto-playing and the overlay sign up ads absolutely kill my patience! I had a client with an ecommerce store that lived and died by the overlay ad. He wanted a feedback widget overlay, pop up sale ad that fired twice during user visits, and a auto-zoom product feature. On category pages, you would be lucky to get a click of the mouse before you were assaulted with pop ups!

  • lex2000

    I hear you on those autoplay ads. Yesterday I was just finishing up a quick news update break and getting back to work. I was listening to a mix from one of my favorite sites and noticed a bit of a different sound in a track that I was familiar with. I realized I had left a tab open from the news site I was on and it was playing audio ads concurrent with my audio stream. There I was thinking the track the DJ selected next in his mix didn’t really work and it was a stupid ad in the background the entire time.

    One of the things that annoy me the most are those “share this” plugins site owners use. Not only are they an annoying element when they slide down the browser as you scroll, or that they basically ruin any design you put them on top of, they also can cause a page’s load time to slow down significantly. That should be about the last thing anyone wants…I’m not going to share your site with my social media friends when your site is impossible to use.

  • Tim

    A a designer, I hate overlays probably more than the next person. However, the fact is that they really do convert. There are massive analytics from many different sources around the Net to confirm that.
    Here is just one example:
    Note the text that says, “Pop-ups drive 1375% more subscribers”

    • Thanks for the information. I realize these methods do work but I’m pretty darn sad about it!

  • Ash Pennington

    Good read. People in management positions will always go for overlays as they’ve been known to work in the past, and well – if you understand your customers they aren’t going to find it intrusive if you offer them 25% off something you know they’re interested in. The hell with email signup overlays though.

    One annoying thing though that you haven’t mentioned (and that’s actually on this site) are comment reply threads. Why do they always have to be indented? I get it, it keeps replies together but consider your mobile users and if you start a sequence of multiple replies off, you’re giving each reply less and less breathing space to a point where it’s like 2/3 words per line… Just a consideration – I like reading on my phone at full page width 🙂

    • I’ll add this to the to-do list for improvements to the site. Comments are tough for mobile but I’ll certainly see what I can do. Thanks for the feedback!

  • twitpaul

    Dark UX!
    This is where all the advertisers love to live, tricking the users into doing stuff – popup boxes that look like they need interaction before letting you continue, adverts mid article that look like pagination… these are the cancer of the web and they have nothing to do with running a profitable business, this kind of practice is not far from phishing in my view.

    It is nice to find a website that is willing to strike a balance between making money from ads and giving users a nice UX

  • Erwin Heiser

    You forgot the unnecessary trackers of which this very site has no less than 9 – addthis, doubleclick. adsense etc…. 🙂

  • On this very page, the leaderboard ad and the medium rectangle ad are taking up fair amount of screen real estate on landing. Just sayin’. 😛

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