Why Web Designers Should Not Use Ad Blockers

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Editor’s Note

This post is an article from our new series of “opinion columns,” in which we give people in the Web design community a platform to raise their voice and present their opinion on something they feel strongly about to the community. Please note that the content in this series is not in any way influenced by the Smashing Magazine Editorial team. If you want to publish your article in this series, please send us your thoughts1 and we will get back to you.

— Vitaly Friedman, Editor in Chief of Smashing Magazine

I’ll start this article with a positive statement: Most people frequenting the web design community (whether they are casual readers or regular design bloggers doing research) understand that nothing is truly free (not even content2), and appreciate the fact that many blogs, design resources, and tech news sites rely on advertising to keep them afloat.

Ad Blockers: Evil?

But unfortunately, not everyone gets this, and not everyone understands that with some viral pushing of certain trends and ideas, we as a community could be inadvertently shooting ourselves in the foot while we try to make our own browsing experience less ad-intrusive, and more comfortable.

Because of the advent of social media and the apparent ease with which trends, habits, and ideas can be spread, and because of the incredible speed with which such ideas can be spread, the mere discussion of ads being too intrusive on web design blogs could cause a serious problem in a presently-thriving community.

Ad Blockers Hinder the Community

The design blogging community would not be what it is today without ads. It’s true that you could make the argument that much of the trash and superficial design writing online wouldn’t exist without the support of advertisements, but that is just a natural byproduct of mass media. Infomercials would not exist if ABC3 and the Discovery Channel4 didn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean ABC and the Discovery Channel never produce quality content. The bad content will always exist if money is involved — but that doesn’t make the financial benefits necessarily evil.

We should be proud that we are part of a community whose advertisements are often from high-quality software and app development companies. Many of these companies have worked hard to produce useful and beautiful products that assist us immensely in our workflow. Many of such products are offered free of charge, with pay options for enhanced versions. You don’t find that kind of thing very often in other media, so we should be willing to support our advertisers fully, and should from time to time take a look at the products they offer and, if we genuinely find them useful, share them with our contacts.

Ad Blockers Promote a Me-First Attitude

Nothing succeeds when individuals are selfish. Ultimately, selfishness will lead to demise because a community cannot truly thrive if the individuals that comprise it are only in it for themselves. When you choose to block ads while you surf the web, you’re basically saying “I only care about my own comfort, and I don’t want anyone else to benefit from my web surfing.” It’s a shame that any web designer would have that attitude.

What would happen if ad blocker plugins started spreading like wildfire throughout the design community, rendering virtually all ads useless? That would be a terrible thing, and would effectively destroy many of our favorite blogs, and would negatively impact many of the very people in the community we claim to be “friends” with.

Ad Blockers Could Cause a Mini “dot com bust”

I’m in no position to intelligently analyze the dot com bubble burst5 or “dot com bust” of the late 90s, but if we promote an “everything should be free” industry, then we’re just setting ourselves up for something similar.

To get an idea of the type of revenue streams that we’re hindering when we use an ad blocker, go to the BuySellAds “buy ads” page6 and do a search for any of the top design blogs, then click on the “more details” link to view the amount of money that advertisers are willing to pay for a simple square or rectangular ad on many of these websites.

Sure, you can have a negative, selfish view of this, thinking that these sites are getting rich because of your web browsing, but that would be a terrible attitude to have. No, these advertisers are not making these website owners rich, they’re putting thousands of dollars into the design community, which is positively affecting all of us.

If we ignore the contribution these advertisers are making, we could inadvertently cause our own little bubble to burst. That’s why it really upsets me when I see design blogs promoting the use of ad blockers, and even worse when I see design bloggers writing about blogs being too ugly because of ads.

Ad Blockers Make the Web Less Real

When I worked for a big design agency here in Toronto, I almost always used Internet Explorer for my browsing. My co-workers didn’t understand why I used IE so much. Mainly I did so because I was used to it from years of using IE6. But it was also great because it gave me a realistic view of the web, because I saw things the way our clients did. What does this have to do with ad blockers?

An ad blocker reduces your ability (if only slightly) to design with your clients’ needs in mind. With ads showing through in full force, you’ll always see things the way they’re intended, and, as mentioned, you’ll be supporting the quality ads that have helped build our community.

Ad Blockers Shouldn’t Be Used (for Quality Blogs)

As a community, we should take a stand against any person or blog that promotes the use of plugins or other methods that effectively take money out of the pockets of the very people who are willing to put money into our community. I wrote this article because I saw a tweet promoting a roundup of Google Chrome extensions, one of which was an ad blocker. I found a few of the extensions useful, but I wouldn’t bother promoting the roundup myself because I don’t want to promote the use of such a plugin.

If you run a web design blog, don’t promote the use of these browser plugins, and don’t complain about the amount of ads that appear on your favorite blogs — because you probably wouldn’t even know about those blogs if they didn’t have ads on them. Instead, have a balanced view7 of ads on design blogs, and help support the community by using the products and services that our advertisers are selling (or in some cases, generously giving away).

Some Useful Related Links

Poll: Do You Use an Ad Blocker?


Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/contact/index.php/form
  2. 2 http://incisive.nu/2010/content-is-not-free/
  3. 3 http://abc.go.com/
  4. 4 http://dsc.discovery.com/
  5. 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dot-com_bubble#The_bubble_bursts
  6. 6 http://buysellads.com/buy
  7. 7 http://www.drawar.com/articles/dont-let-ads-kill-your-site/
  8. 8 http://css-tricks.com/video-screencasts/78-on-web-advertising/
  9. 9 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/06/19/ad-management-plugins-and-tutorials-for-managing-ads-on-your-website/
  10. 10 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/12/03/online-advertising-and-its-impact-on-web-design/
  11. 11 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/12/successful-strategies-for-selling-ad-space-on-low-traffic-websites/
  12. 12 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/12/the-path-to-advertising-nirvana/
  13. 13 http://polldaddy.com/poll/3343287/
  14. 14 http://polldaddy.com/features-surveys/

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Louis Lazaris is a freelance web developer and author based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs about front-end code on Impressive Webs and curates Web Tools Weekly, a weekly newsletter for front-end developers.

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  1. 1

    As a Designer you should always be aware of the Way a Webpage can render different in a different environment, making sure your Page works with ad blocks and without is the same as making sure if degrades well in IE. For the Matter If you should use an ad blocker from a moral point, well, the fact is people use it because some adds make a page unusable (layers, fly ins, pop ups), so there can’t be any blame.

    0
  2. 202

    Flash advertisements are super-annoying, because they always distract from content, no matter how it designed (and most are designed poor).

    Even non-animated ads are unsuitable for site design, with rare exceptions.

    And I never clicked banners (only by accicent), so they would benefit nothing whether I have adblock enabled or disabled.

    0
  3. 403

    Protip: get a REAL job, blogging is a hobby

    -1
    • 604

      Tell that so bloggers making thousands a month (well used to). Often more than they made at their “real jobs” (whatever that means).

      0
  4. 805

    Is there any sort of QA for the articles @ SM anymore? If I read this on a personal blog, I would not even give it a second thought but, on SM it just looks like another ‘Send Us Money’ article.

    I personally, do not use an ad-blocker. That being said, I also never click on any of the ads.

    “If you can’t afford to read “free” blogs, then you shouldn’t read them.”

    Really?? How about the alternate? If you can’t afford to run free blogs, charge for access.

    0
  5. 1006

    As a web developer, I thought this is an article about how using the ad blocker while working on a site with advertising can actually influence the result of your coding. But it turned out to be a variant of “don’t switch the channel when you watch TV and advertising is on. ” Jeeez :)

    0
  6. 1207

    What about spam filters, should we disable them, so poor spammers can make money?

    I never blocked ads. even annoying ones. even with a very loud shocker ad I just complained to the site authors. But few years ago some ad was so CPU hugry I actually had to kill the browser’s process and that was too much. I started using Adblock.

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  7. 1408

    Once I thought about blocking people who use adblockers from my website .. but I am too lazy to look in to it, don;t even know if it is possible. Anyways, I think I should have the right to show my site only to people who see the banners. or not? don’t know, but to use adblockers looks a bit like stealing.

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  8. 1609

    I just want to further ad, you can host the ads on the smashingmagazine.com website and the ads wouldn’t get blocked. Another deterrent and reason I prefer to use a noscript plugin, is because I don’t trust external scripts, if the ads ran within the smashing magazine’s scope I’d be more trusting than some external 3rd party script gathering information from me.

    0
  9. 1810

    This thread is quite intense at points, and I think most people have lost the point of the article. I realise that by blocking this type of content it’s not going to do any good for the people producing it. I happen to be in the industry, so being on a salary does help… but income was part of the reason I decided to pull a lot of stuff I was producing and maintaining on the web. That said, I still use blocking software on about half the software I’m using.

    Keep up the good content, and I hope this section of the site stays afloat.

    0
  10. 2011

    You ask web designers to drop Ad blocking so you/we/all can get advertising cash but… have you read the text below “Leave a Comment”?

    “… and do not advertise!”

    Oh the irony!, I’ll remove AdBlock when any website I visit follows that request, see:

    I wouldn’t mind a professional and unbiased article about some product or service, like “Company blabla just launched blabla, we like blabla, we don’t like blaba, they could improve blabla” while browsing a website I choose to. Somebody actually taking the time to talk about a product or service they are advertising kind of gives more confidence.

    In fact I have made some purchase decisions based on articles like that, but never, never based on a random and unrelated banner found in whatever website I visit, how many computers/loans/magazine subscriptions/etc. do you think we all need to buy/get daily?

    And yes, I do advertising work on my day job adapting and generating web content for a big company.

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  11. 2212

    Never gonna happen! What should happen is that bloggers should have more inventive ways to advertise that cannot be blocked. Such as product placement. In-content links, etc… Ads are intrusive and annoying. If I wouldn’t block them, I wouldn’t click them anyways. 99% of ads are for garbage products anyways.

    0
  12. 2413

    Over the last 3 years adblock became a must-have add-on for me! When I use a browser without it I get crazy of all the ads in an instant. Also I never would and never did actually click on an ad (okay, the site owner might get a cashback even for just displaying the ad…)

    Of course you are right, this is very selfish of me. But as a user of the interwebs I just became so used to getting software, movies, music, news, and and and absolutely for free… I guess this just the way of the world, a reality bloggers (and btw musicians, filmmakers, software-developers, writers and many others) have to accept.

    Also there are many sites that make adblocking just sooo very sweet. Take http://dict.leo.org for example: The site is layouted nicely so that the space of the ads is used by the content when they are being blocked out. I use this site on a daily basis and am always shocked when I see it with ads, it’s just horrible :)

    On the other hand a lot of “less serious” sites manage to get around the adblocking mechanisms. I guess most of you have already gotten a livejasmin.com popup despite poup- and ad-blockers…

    I guess it’s a decision up to the site owners: Let the users choose and get ripped-off or violate the users with some exploits to show them the ads anyway…

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  13. 2614

    I suggest using infomercials or selling merchandise over ads as well if you want to make money from blogging. I ignore ads myself; I’m using internet for well over a decade, but I doubt I clicked more than 100 ads in total.

    0
  14. 2815

    This is actually among the list of greater articles regarding those that We’ve stay with me this kind of issue these days. Great do the job.

    0
  15. 3016

    Although this comment is a little late and will likely go unnoticed, those who opposed my view stated here should read this site:

    http://www.magenet.com/view/

    That’s the kind of garbage the internet will be filled with if we reject unobtrusive and properly placed ads (which is what I was promoting in this piece). You can say the business model of banner ads is flawed, but the site linked above is currently paying thousands of dollars in ad revenue on various web design blogs in order to promote this alternative unethical means of advertising.

    Here’s a quote from that page:

    Selling links through MageNet is absolutely safe for your sites since Google cannot detect that these links are paid.

    In other words, even though they know that Google’s terms of service do not permit paid links that aren’t marked with “nofollow”, they encourage it and make money off it.

    So, for those who want to have the internet without banner ads, you’ll now have a compromise in place: Content where you can’t distinguish between what is ad and what is not.

    Is it really worth it?

    1
  16. 3217

    I’m a budding net marketer, not a designer. Think it’s just the way things go. Something like this provides opportunities for the cream to rise to the top. For site owners to explore other ways of monetizing their site traffic.

    Don’t think it’s all that difficult. Only been researching the topic for a couple hours and already seeing some solutions and opportunities to use the situation to my advantage. Bad for ad serve networks ? yes … Bad for site owners ? Depends on how adaptable they are.

    Put your thinking caps on folks. Anytime someone comes up with something … Someone else can come up with ways to counter it. Then the beat goes on … The adblock developers come out with a new approach. The people who depend on ads have to do likewise.

    Coming across some disturbing stats about how prominent the usage of this kind of adblock software is though. Number of weekly downloads etc. Just look at the results of this poll !!! Yikes.

    I actually like the way things are developing, for many reasons. It’s going to punch internet giants like google in the breadbasket. Since like 97% of their revenues are advertising. I don’t like the megacorp netgods … aka: Google/facebook/Binghooo etc.

    They are really only ever doing anything out of selfish reasons anyway. They don’t really give a crap about their users. They ever endeavor to squeeze every nickle out of people they can. So if it hurts them … I like it.

    As for hurting site owners ? Actually, just me … but really approve of that too. A good % of the web is just nonsense and trash content. Or duplicate content that got resyndicated 292 million times. So if they depend on ad revenue to keep useless net pollution sites up. Then good for adblockers !!!

    The really useful and relevant sites will survive anyway. Cause they have an actual value … A little common sense and they can find ways other than adsense etc. to monetize web traffic.

    It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if 87% of the sites online didn’t manage to survive the shake out. I’ve spent many a net research hour cursing about coming across irrelevant site after irrelevant site. If all those waste sites crash due to dried up ad revenues. Then more’s the better.

    Maybe people can find quality content about something of interest in 10mins … Instead of having to dig through trash sites for 10hrs.

    0
  17. 3418

    When did it suddenly become fashionable to share everything and sacrifice our own comfort for others? Honestly, if individuals were not allowed to be a little selfish and seek a little personal comfort there would be no successful people in the world today.

    0
  18. 3619

    Where can I get an AD BLOCKER?

    I am sick and tired of advertisements that automatically drive across my screen when I open my browser, or pictures of women pretending to dance, then pretending to get caught in front of the camera.

    Advertisements that just run down the side of the websites I visit are invisible to me anyhow; I have no impulse to either look at them or buy anything they are selling. I see them as entities that only take up space.

    Bottom line: I completely disagree with this article and all of the reasons the author states that internet advertisements are worthwhile. I say get rid of them permanently.

    – Magrathea

    1

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