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.
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
- Chris Coyier’s Screencast “On Web Advertising”8
- Ad Management Plug-Ins And Tutorials For Your Website9
- Online Advertising And Its Impact On Web Design10
- Successful Strategies For Selling Ad Space On Low-Traffic Websites11
- The Path to Advertising Nirvana12
Poll: Do You Use an Ad Blocker?
- 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/contact/index.php/form
- 2 http://incisive.nu/2010/content-is-not-free/
- 3 http://abc.go.com/
- 4 http://dsc.discovery.com/
- 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dot-com_bubble#The_bubble_bursts
- 6 http://buysellads.com/buy
- 7 http://www.drawar.com/articles/dont-let-ads-kill-your-site/
- 8 http://css-tricks.com/video-screencasts/78-on-web-advertising/
- 9 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/06/19/ad-management-plugins-and-tutorials-for-managing-ads-on-your-website/
- 10 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/12/03/online-advertising-and-its-impact-on-web-design/
- 11 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/12/successful-strategies-for-selling-ad-space-on-low-traffic-websites/
- 12 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/04/12/the-path-to-advertising-nirvana/
- 13 http://polldaddy.com/poll/3343287/
- 14 http://polldaddy.com/features-surveys/