Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Web Looks Like Shit

I’m not linking to this Outline piece because it’s necessarily new information — though it’s nice to have all of the frustrating pieces of the web in a single tidy article. I’m linking to it because of Hanson O’Haver’s excellent explanation of the cumulative effect of all of this bullshit.

Decreasing ad rates have also put a lot of pressure on websites to devote more screen space to ads, and auto-play videos to increase impressions for video ads. “The very first online ad made a lot of money,” said Ben Williams, head of communications at Adblock Plus, “almost as much as print.” But as early as the mid-’90s advertisers were aware of “banner blindness,” the tendency of internet users to simply not look at the parts of the screen where ads usually are.

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It’s easy to become blind to these problems when you spend all day on the internet. You figure out workarounds, stop looking at large portions of the screen, and install an ad blocker. People who don’t grasp these tricks are dismissed as rubes. Meanwhile, the problems grow more intractable. To borrow a phrase, this situation has become dangerous and unacceptable. We’re 20+ years into the internet era, and instead of becoming simpler and more thoughtful, navigating our digital spaces has turned into an increasingly frustrating exercise. Maybe it’s delusional or naively optimistic to say this, but it feels like there must be a better way.

After being inundated with crappy ads for so long, it’s no wonder many of us are becoming immune to their intended effect, hence the rise of internet chum and sneakier forms of native advertising. There’s no way that these trends will result in a better web or more profitable online publishing; it only makes us more likely to ignore anything that has even the vaguest whiff of advertising about it.