Girders Blog
Notes on building internet applications

Modern Advertisement Practices Destroy Your UX and Brand

Aug 12, 2015

As conscientious designers and developers, we empathise with our users, finding the best navigation system, typography, color schemes, layouts to please both the visual eye and to aid usability so the user feels welcome and considered.

Once you add in third-party advertisements and JavaScript widgets, all your careful UX work ruins your goodwill. They destroy your UX, infuriate your users, and undermining your brand.

Dynamic Advertisements

Until ten years ago, ads were served by the web server. Like print advertising, they server matched an appropriate advertisement for the page at run time and inserted the “banner ad” into the page. The slight delay of the additional queries and image downloads were hardly noticed by the users.

Now, most advertisements are happening on the client.

Do you remember using dial-up internet in the 1990’s? Pages would constantly re-flow when each image downloaded. That experience of the 90’s are now back.

As our technologies have improved, our experiences have regressed. Loading a web page today feels as slow as it did in the 90’s. Today, I pay far more for my broadband connection than I did for 90’s dial-up. Why must I wait just as long for a page to load?

Today, the client instead downloads JavaScript that calls back to multiple back-end services to negotiate which ad to show, selecting the one who offers the most money for the impression (or ad rendering).

Additionally, I must now wait for each JavaScript widget to download, initiate, call back to load more data and graphics and render them.

How does this affect people still on dial-up and mobile devices?

Once the page initially loads, I start reading or scanning. Then come the dynamic add-ons and advertisements. Sometime my browser locks up, preventing me from scrolling.

Then an ad will insert itself in the page, snapping the text I am reading further down or out of the window.

So I scroll down more to continue reading. Then that ad “shrinks” from a “hero” size image to a banner. Then my text snaps up again, making me stop reading and search for where it went.

This is not “user experience.” It is “user annoyance.”

In-Page Pop-Ups

Another UX fail I encounter frequently is the JavaScript/CSS pop-up or overlay when I first load the site. When I visit the site, I am blocked by a pop-up to sign up, join the site’s email list, or to “like” it on Facebook (which makes me loathe to do so). This requires me to do an extra mouse movement and click to dismiss the box before I am able to read.

Or worse, it waits ten seconds and interrupts me when I am in the middle of reading.

This happens every time I go to these sites. Even if I have already done so.

Instead, ask your guests after visiting, to see if they are interested in returning. Don’t demand it up front. Nudge them with a happy icon on the side to let them know they can join, like, or whatever.

Do not accost your users at the gate. Make them feel welcome and they may return the favor.

What about Ad Block?

Ad blocking browser extensions have been available for years. I had never wanted to use it before. For most sites, the ads pay for the costs of creating and serving up the content. I want the content owner to survive, and be there again for me next time.

Last month, I finally had enough of the slow web and installed an ad blocker. It doesn’t block all the annoying practices, but enough of then that made the web feel usable to me again.

In this recent finding, a university used an ad-block software globally and found a 40% reduction of bandwidth. This means we must pay for a larger infrastructure and more bandwidth to support ads. These advertising practices are costing us more money as well.


Advertisements in magazines don’t cover up the articles, demand interaction, or assault the readers. Why should web sites?

When I casually click into a site that has these pop-up and page-loading tricks, I’ll immediately close out the page. I don’t want to play that game.

This started slowly, Over the years, it snowballed into larger page render times that makes the web slower and the user experience more frustrating.

Does your advertisements and widgets also enrage your users?