Thursday, March 24, 2016

Random rant about websites

This morning a friend posted a news story on Facebook and I tried to follow the link to read the story. Only to find that it immediately (loudly) began playing a video as soon as my phone loaded it.

I poked the video where a pause button would usually be, but there wasn't one. I tried a few other things to get the video to stop playing, but it would not stop.

I turned the volume off on my phone. And I mean I SET THE PHONE TO MUTE. And the video CONTINUED TO PLAY, though my other sounds were shut off. I mean that yes, it was still PLAYING SOUND while my SOUND WAS OFF.

And there was no way to look at the page without the video loading, which meant a) I could not read it while I was in public (e.g., at work, where I was trying to read it) and b) since I have trouble reading when there is talking or music, I could not just ignore the video and read the article. And in my experience, with asshole sites like this, they don't just play the brief news story and then stop. They load a related video and keep playing. 

(I once tested this. A video wouldn't stop playing in my browser so I left it there and went to work. When I got home six hours later videos were still playing.)

I don't understand why they think we want this.

And if they're well aware that we don't want it, I don't understand why they think exposing us to it against our expressed will is a good marketing strategy.

And even if auto-play on such things was a good way to make people consume content you want them to consume, why the hell would you disable their ability to stop it if they don't want that??

And last night, I was trying to watch a decently long video (about 17 minutes) that was embedded in a website, and I missed something someone said so I tried to replay that part. Instead of letting me replay content, it registered my click as me being done, gave me a popup thanking me for checking it out, and gave me the option to click on another video. I couldn't get back to the video I had been watching without completely reloading the page, and then there was literally no way to fast-forward the video; any click on the video at all just stopped it and removed it from the page while encouraging me to check out another one. To watch it, I would have had to view it completely from the beginning again even though I'd seen eight minutes of it already. I got tired of trying to find a solution that would let me look at the content I came for and just found an unofficial mirror of it on YouTube.

Similarly, I'm soooo frustrated by the way websites are programmed these days to load ads that encroach on the content or pop up requests for you to buy something or add your name to a list. Sometimes when you enter the site, it grays itself out and pops up a window bothering you to join the mailing list, and you can't even look at the site until you either respond or hit the close button. And then sometimes it will frigging ask you if you're sure and tell you you're missing out. This is so obnoxious. I don't see how anyone thinks pestering a viewer and interrupting the content they came for is a good way to make them subscribe to you.

Case in point.
I move my mouse toward the X and suddenly there's a popup! BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE DON'T YOU WANT . . . I decide not to create an account when I make an order and it "reminds" me four times before I check out that I should make an account . . . I am trying to read something and a sidebar ad suddenly expands and begins playing music and freezes my computer if I try to mute or close it . . . I go to YouTube and people whose main message I want to hear spend half the video telling me what their update schedule is and encouraging me to subscribe to them while covering themselves with multiple colorful "funny" annotations that I have to X out of to see what I came for . . . 

and I just plain do not get it.

They cannot possibly think annoying the piss out of their customers and viewers is a good way to retain their business or attention, and they cannot possibly think the crap they're doing is not annoying. The only conclusion I can come to is that they know and do not care because the actual way they make money from advertisements is if we're forced to load them and experience them, not if we actually buy the product. And someone who doesn't need to use the site or doesn't consume the content through its consumer portal doesn't believe it's intrusive enough to push people away, and their philosophy goes something like "well if only half a percent of our viewers sign up because of the annoying 'join list!' popup, then it's STILL MORE CUSTOMERS THAN WE WOULD HAVE HAD WITHOUT IT!" And with the commercials they throw in front of your content without an opt-out opportunity, they may very well know you don't want to see it, but they're still telling themselves yeah, but they'll know about our product and remember our name.

Yeah. We'll remember you're the one who programmed your website or wrote your video script so we couldn't get away from you even if we express that we want to, and we'll probably avoid you in the future and remember you're a jerk. I swear to cheese, it's like those dipshits on dating sites who send women lewd messages or provocative, offensive questions and when the women scold them, they grinningly reply, "Well it got you to reply though, didn't it? Therefore, it WORKS."

No. It does not "work." If your goal is to annoy me and punish me with content I'm supposed to end up wanting, yeah, I guess it's working, but I think it's an awful idea to make the content someone came for impossible to consume without aggressively interrupting it with stuff that overlaps or distracts or literally makes noise (even when you're in a situation where your devices aren't supposed to make noise).

And I do understand that it's advertising that allows some things to exist; that it's advertising dollars that pay for products or networks or websites or individuals' survival. That's actually just fine. And it doesn't annoy me that on YouTube some videos will have a promotional message before the content starts (assuming it's short and not full of unannounced gore or something; very long unskippable commercials and previews for movies with extreme violence and creepy monsters have occasionally freaked me the hell out, and I think that's in terrible taste). It doesn't bother me that television shows have commercials, that movies have previews, that websites have banner ads or options to sign up for stuff. I just want them to stop making content we didn't come for so intrusive that I literally can't consume the content I did come for.

Stop making websites so focused on getting our attention for the next thing that they don't do a good job giving us the thing we actually want.

ETA: I just went to a website to read an article and I got through about two sentences before it forcibly scrolled the text I was reading off the screen to put a huge screaming video clip in the center. I scrolled down to read what was below it and an ad popped up and covered the text, then readjusted itself to wrap around the video ad. As I was scrolling around literally chasing the text so I could read it, a full-page ad grayed out the screen and covered everything encouraging me to enter to win an iPad. When I got rid of that screen I could read the text but a video was playing in the corner and it eclipsed the text so you had to scroll until the text was above it. Hovering over the video yielded no pause or close options. I do not understand what they think this is encouraging us to do. I gave up on trying to read the article and I will never go back to their site.


  1. Have you tried an ad blocker extension? Granted, it doesn't always work, and it won't help with the in store ads like the "sign up for this newsletter" crap. But it might help with the really awful ads. Of course I'm thinking browser here. Phone stuff is a whole different animal and it's becoming impossible to read anything on a phone without getting hassled.

    1. No, I haven't; like you said, can't really use it on the phone and I'm not supposed to put stuff on my work computer, but I would LIKE companies to be able to advertise to me in responsible ways--I want them to be able to get their ad revenue. I'm just really frustrated now by how many of them insist on making their ads so intrusive and how many of them auto-play their sound! My work computer doesn't have speakers so I don't worry too much about that, and at home my browser can mute a tab, but yeah, on the phone? RARGH.