7 Annoying habits of highly-defective websites [May 2017 Edition]

It’s been a long-arse time since I’ve written a post like this (try 4.5 years since the last post lol, which had come 2.5 years after the first edition), and so much has changed since then, giving me that much more material to pick apart, so I thought a more current edition of this phenomenon was in order.  As in, I feel like I’ve been amiss.  So, I’ll Get Right On That. 😉

Right On.

Annoying Habit 1 – Masking Sponsored Ads As Legitimate News Stories:

Come on, guys (I’m talking to the admins of the websites that do this).  Camouflaging advertisements in with the news headlines might have worked for a few minutes before everyone realized that they’re not really news stories.  Now everybody’s on to you.  You’re not really reporting on a new law that every driver in Texas should be aware of; you’re selling auto insurance.  You’re not fixing to discuss a healthcare breakthrough; you’re hocking yet one more mediocre weight-loss product, like every other schmuck in America.  Which, by the way, if it really works, would we not be noticing a downward trend in obesity rates, instead of watching in amazement as they reach record proportions?  Just saying.

Annoying Habit 2 – Putting These Ad-Based Links (or Any Other Unrelated Content) Before the Main Article:

As if the ads-camouflaged-as-genuine-articles trickery wasn’t pathetic enough, it’s a real confusing and annoying issue when I click on a link to something I want to read, and it’s preceded by anywhere from five to ten links to unrelated content (or worse, more ad-stories), thus shoving the main content (the material I actually wanted to read) off my screen, requiring me to scroll fairly far down in order to even see it.

Annoying Habit 3 – Requiring Flash or JavaScript, Especially When It’s Not Necessary:

Yeah, I get it.  JavaScript gives us the wooey special effects of fading in and out that 21st-century websites love to wow us with; Flash gives us streaming audio and video.  Some would argue that these are non-negotiable elements of websites in the 2010s Post-Information-Superhighway Era.

But JavaScript also allows for tracking us around the web, web analytics that even some website admins don’t have access to (because they’re not paying (LOTS of) extra money for the service from their provider), and “personalization” that as far as I know, we (the users) never asked for and probably couldn’t recognize, define, or appreciate enough to make it worthwhile for the user.

And Flash has a long track-record of security problems, “super-cookies” (my term, as far as I know) that work like “trick candles” on a birthday cake (you think you’ve blown them all out, but they come back and continue burning) that remain on your hard drive, tracking your movies, even after you think you’ve cleared all of your cookies and other tracking data.

Heh.

I’m not so sure that fading images or animated graphics or the “benefit” of auto-playing some streaming audio or video is really worth that kind of hassle–or worse, risk.  It doesn’t exactly make my entire day just to be able to hover my mouse pointer over a block of hyper-linked text and have a little window pop up with more information; if I want more information about that information, I’ll do a hilariously novel thing: I’ll click on it!  Lol.

Annoying Habit 4 – Auto-Playing Audio/Video:

Yeah, speaking of that audio/video auto-play… Thanks, but no thanks.  I’d rather not.  I’d rather be able to call the shots regarding when audible media begin blaring out of my computer speakers or visible media begin playing on my screen.

Because, see, there are certain sights and sounds that I’m sensitive to.  Sometimes this sensitivity is emotion-based; I’d rather not see violence or injury or anything sad having to do with animals or innocent people.  If it’s supposed to be funny, then I might consider clicking on it (on a good day), but I need to be mentally prepared first.  And these clips don’t come with content warnings.  There might be advisories for mundane elements I don’t care about, like language, nudity, or “adult situations”.  But if the video or audio doesn’t contain any of these elements, everything else is fair game, no advisory required.  But I need these advisories.  And there are some clips I’d rather not see or hear at all, no matter what kind of day I’m having.  I would like to take back control of my own computer and my own internet experience, thanks.

(How to circumvent this as of March 2017, with solutions for all major browsers.)

Annoying Habit 5 – Interference From Images or Ads That Impede My Browsing Experience:

OK, that’s a mouthful.  What do I mean?  I’m talking about the graphics and advertisements that take longer to load than the text-based content of the website itself, causing my screen to jump around as the website proceeds to load.  This happens to me most often on my mobile screen, where mobile site development has outpaced the speeds of browsers and cellular/mobile networks.

I’ll click on a webpage, and it will begin loading.  The text will appear first, which is great, because that’s what I was after in the first place.  Sweet!  I start reading.  Suddenly, my mobile phone screen unexpectedly jumps, skipping up or down (I can’t tell at first) the page, and I lose my place, frantically scrolling up and down to try to find my place again.  I begin to realize that there are pictures and/or ads in places that before had held only text.  I figure out that an image or ad was inserted in between some of the paragraphs of text, or perhaps at the top of the screen.  Fine, carry on.  Except that it happens again, sometimes three, four, or five times on a single website.  Frustrated, I hit the back button on my mobile phone browser and resume my search, for a less-annoying link.

Silly web developers.  Tricks are for kids (not administrators)!  I know that mobile phone internet browsers are oh-so-sophisticated these days, but cellular networks aren’t, and not all of us have unlimited data plans, either.  So quit chewing up our data on crap we’ll never click on (on purpose) anyway, and quit enticing people to leave your sites out of sheer frustration.  K thx.

Annoying Habit 6 – That Nagging “Sign Up Now!” Box That Demands Your Email Address:

It never fails; I’ll click on a really cool-looking link that points to what I hope is an equally-cool website and I barely get through reading the headline before–poof!–the whole screen grays out and a big white box appears, smack in the middle of the page, which “helpfully” suggests that I “sign up now!” for their email “newsletter”, which is more than likely the inadvertent grant of permission to spam me with ads and infomercials three or four times a week.

The truth is, I haven’t even gotten to read any of their content yet, so how the hell can they assume I want their “newsletter”?  I haven’t even been able to decide yet whether or not the article I clicked on is any good, or if it’s more empty fluff hidden behind compelling click-bait headlines.  How do I know that their emailed content isn’t more of the latter?  The fact is, I don’t.

And they don’t make it easy for you to close these boxes, either.  Sometimes there’s an “x” at in a top corner of the box, sometimes there isn’t.  Sometimes the “x” is in the top corner of your computer screen, where one might not think to look.  Sometimes there’s no “x” at all, and you have to hover your mouse over one of the corners before it appears.  Or, there’s no “x” to be had at all, and you’re stuck figuring out that you need to click anywhere outside the box (in the grayed-out space) to make the box go away.

Double Annoyance Points for those boxes that use visual tricks when they appear, like dropping and dangling for a few seconds before holding the f**k still already.  Lol.

Annoying Habit 7 – Blocking My AdBlock Browser Plugin/Extension:

Websites like Forbes, EndocrineWeb, and Wired, I’m glaring at you.  Feel the wrath of my stink-eye.  OK, maybe you can’t (I’m not exactly the chiefest of internet influencers) and maybe you won’t care about one quiet, quirky person from one tiny corner of the interwebz, but I am part of a bigger force on the internet: a force that is saying “no” to your blocking my AdBlock.

I think I’d better back up and catch everybody up.  AdBlock (and AdBlock Plus) is/are an extension or plug-in for internet web browsers that give the user an add-free browsing experience.  It’s clean.  It’s calm.  It’s pleasant.  Remember those annoying pop-up windows and bright, rapidly flashing banner ads that you had to distractingly hold up your hand in front of in order not to experience an epileptic seizure?  Or those ads that jumped and floated all over your screen?  Yeah, those.  Thanks to (free!) plug-ins like AdBlock (Plus), they can be a Thing of the Past.  It really is as lovely as it sounds.  It brings sanity back to the Wild Wild Web.

Until a few websites got wise to us, that is.  They caught on, feeling the pinch of somehow-“lost” ad revenue, since their annoyances were no longer reaching our eyeballs.  (Somehow, I seem to have momentarily misplaced my sympathy.)  So, in an entirely juvenile Pissing Contest Move, they developed technology that sensed our AdBlock, and blocked our AdBlock-activated access, showing a screen that looked like this (playing the All-Caps Shouting Authoritarian Card):

Or perhaps a screen that looks like this (playing the Cool, Hip, Veiled-Whiny Card):

Now, here’s the deal: I get it.  Money makes the world go ’round, and I don’t begrudge that.  We all need it to keep our lights on, feed ourselves, shelter ourselves, and achieve a certain level of enjoyment (the latter of which varies).  I’m one of the 74% who believes that ads themselves aren’t necessarily a bad thing, and would agree to allow/refrain from blocking a certain amount of ads that measured up to a certain standard, as opposed to the 26% who would not tolerate any advertising at all, and believe that they’re simply entitled to everything for free.

However, the advertisers got a head-start on us; they created this mess that they’re now blaming us for.  They hold the monopoly on obnoxiousness, and they held us in their grip for years before we had any control over it.  Remember the days of clicking on a single link, only to be besieged by like eight pop-ups covering your screen that ultimately crashed your browser entirely?  Yeah, me too.  (And for those of you who don’t, you’re lucky.  It was a First World Hell.)

So the story of David and Goliath played out.  The Little Guy fought back, and won.  We hit the Mammoth where it hurts: ad revenue.  They ignored us for years when we ranted about the intrusiveness of their ads, the bandwidth they chomped through (which was much more of an issue, as it was often limited or capped back then, and it still is in some places (excuse me–ahem–markets) today.

Pop-up blockers were the first emergency vehicles to arrive on scene to save us.  But then the websites got savvy – no more pop-up windows; they opted for on-screen ads in the first place.  Hello banner ads, floating ads, and every other god(dess)forsaken ad.

We fought back again, with the AdBlocker plugins of recent years – offering a slick, sane web experience, the way the web should have been in the first place–an informative, rational, calming, higher-common-denominator place.

And then, as of this last fall (fall of 2016), I witnessed the latest in Website Warfare: the blocking of AdBlockers.

Fear not; there are some solutions.  First, the anarchist tech gurus have been hard at work, diligently and dutifully inventing workarounds and punch-throughs that allow you to view ad-blocked content anyway, despite the opposition from the corporate giants.

Additionally, the research is coming out, fast and furious, and it says: sites that block AdBlockers are losing, and they’re losing big, where it counts.  Their traffic is taking a complete nosedive, and a plummet that directly corresponds to this AdBlock fight-back business.  The AdBlock-blocking websites whine and complain, but again, lest they not forget, they did all of this to themselves.  I know I sound like a three-year-old right now: “But mom!  He started it!!”  But there’s some truth to that protest.  And protest we did.  And win we will.

Concluding Words…

I have no doubt that websites will continue to be highly-annoying and eternally defective, as will the brains of their administrators.  It’s a cat-and-mouse game, after all.  It’s like tic-tac-toe; as the movie Wargames (1984) taught us, nobody wins.  The only way to win is not to play.  Well, I’m not that “big” of a person yet; I still like to play.  The internet has become a haven, despite the fact that I walked the planet for 21 years before clicking on my first dial-up connection screen.  I’ve sold my soul to the Dark Side (the good ol’ world wide web), banishing all previous hopes of living Off The Grid, at least for a while, and at least until absolutely necessary.  And I’m sure that websites will resort to tracking my ass every step of the way.  The Empire always Strikes Back, after all.  But didn’t someone say that in the end, the meek shall inherit the earth or something? 🙂

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2 thoughts on “7 Annoying habits of highly-defective websites [May 2017 Edition]

  1. Hate hate hate the jumpy mobile screen! I’ve found if you’re impatient, as I am at times, and try to click before the site fully loads you get sent to an ad cuz, trick, that spot wasn’t content at all. 😤👿

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