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Can ads exist peacefully within websites?

Some more general website things, but I’ve started experimenting with Google Adsense. I’ve been curious about this for a while now. I’ve added a couple of them on the sidebar and the footer.

Experimenting with Adsense

It might be counter-intuitive as well, but I admit that I do have ad blockers installed on Safari. I tend to do more blog reading and surfing on Safari, while I use Chrome more for work on debugging and dev tools.

I notice that there are dramatic reactions from some designers against ads, as if they are little bugs that infiltrate your pantry. The purists all condemn it, which is understandable. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from hanging out with non-designers, it’s that people really don’t give a shit about what young, tough, and gritty designers think.

For here, I’ve put them in designated places. I have a feeling that they might not be super effective, but I will let time tell. Let’s make no assumptions… yet.

Although, I absolutely hate ads within content, like when they disrupt reading. It’s like someone cutting in line at the hot dog stand. Very rude. So I was very cognizant of keeping those bad boys out of the way.

The top example of a website I find rather frustrating is Forbes. I think they have good content, for the most part, but there are just a few too many obstacles in my way to get to it. I’ve since felt more and more disengaged with their website, and usually never get past their obnoxious splash page after I click their links on Facebook.

 

 

Ugh, Jesus Christ, Forbes. Tone it down a little.

Another love-hate relationship I’ve fostered is with The New York Times. Particularly on mobile, the way that the content loads first, and then jumps around as the ads generate. This is taking the notion of “content first” a little too literally, guys. Grrr!

 

 

However, I will note that I like the content and do still engage with the website, even though it loads with the same way a drunk fun uncle stumbles into the bar for your birthday.

The interesting thing for me I guess is comparing blog and news sites to how Facebook places their ads. The sidebar is a nice common ground for me, actually, as it is less obtrusive but not completely hidden.

 

 

The way I’m approaching it is that I don’t have too much chaos in my life (deliberately planned and executed with extreme discipline) and I don’t want my layout to reflect that. I imagine people I want to talk to are those who aren’t in a hurry or juggling ten different things at once.

Facebook also inserts them into their feed, but thankfully, they aren’t inside the posts or anything like that. I don’t want the calls coming from inside the house. 

With the way that the News Feed is set up, this makes a lot of sense because users are free to ignore them as they flow through. This is different from when a user is actually inside a piece of content, such as reading a full article. They have already chosen to engage with the content. I don’t think an ad should burst into the room every five minutes to see if things are okay, or if you want to partake in Amazon’s Deal of the Day.

 

 

I myself have clicked on these Facebook ads (for magic mops and Tubshrooms) because of this thoughtfulness. The News Feed is more like a shopping experience, where the user can take the time to pick and choose what links or posts to open. An ad behaving this way is appropriate, in my opinion.

The key moment for me is between this display of options (the News Feed), before any commitment is made, and the actual choice to engage (clicking the link itself because clickbait–FFS…).

It’s a delicate balance, and I’m keen on digging into this some more.

I like to think that I might have some control over these things (and my life), so I’ve decided on several “musts” within this whole thing:

  • The ads must not be rude. I think they are okay to be a little lively or do whatever ads are set out to do, but above all, it shouldn’t come between the audience and the content.
  • Advertising should not take over the whole site. One of the things that bother me is when I visit a website and there’s 90% ads and 10% content. Most of the time, the content isn’t even very good.
  • I must reflect: When visiting a website, what are the things that I don’t want my friends to suffer through?

All in all, I don’t think advertising is a bad thing, nor is it the root of all evil. But it’s definitely one of those torture tools that may end up killing me if I’m not careful.

Curious to know your thoughts and impressions.

 

Bottom Lines

Trung and I talk about our work often, as most good friends do. And what usually ends up happening is a dissection of the personalities that we both deal with in our lines of work.

Okay, it usually ends up with both of us getting drunk and then watching Midsomer Murders to yell about how much we miss Sgt. Troy, but the lead-up to that is always interesting.

One of our general themes has been to differentiate people by their bottom lines.

Despite the differences in web development and commercial plumbing, our conversations always boil down to this saying, which I think Trung really should trademark:

It’s not the job, it’s the people.

What is this person’s bottom line?

This almost always affects the outcome of the work and how many fistfights you are bound to have.

Money as Bottom Line

There are the old school folks, where the bottom line is money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people being aware, or even prudent, about costs.

But in a sense (and based on past experiences), they are the ones who tend to reserve spending on materials or resources and almost always settle for “Good enough,” look at the end result, and however we all get there, the ends justify the means.

The bottom line is having enough resources at the very end, so that it can be spent on something else.

The tough thing, though, is when you start having awful conversations about reaching the bare minimum, and how it could also be possible to bring that standard even lower to save another $10.

I find that these people do tend to have more money, and that’s great. Because that’s their bottom line. They’re able to shell out for emergency dental work or send their kids off to boarding school. Damages that occur without home insurance could easily be paid for by the money that they saved from not getting it in the first place.

They spend more time on the same project. And maybe because they just have better focus. I really don’t know.

Convenience as Bottom Line

Then there are the Convenience as Bottom Line People, which I think I am definitely a subsect of.

I don’t think we are a particularly smart bunch, but I’ll be honest in saying that I have fewer regrets. It’s almost like I’ve spread out my stress over time, instead of collecting it all at the very end.

For this tribe, it’s more about freeing up certain resources to be able to focus on or achieve a goal. And if that means paying more for something, so be it.

And this doesn’t necessarily equate to just money or expenses. To me at least, the bottom line question is:

What is your time worth?

I would rather invest in a $1000 tool that saves me 6 hours of work than use a hand-crank or screwdriver.

I would rather pay someone to paint the apartment in a day than spending two weeks stepping in plastic dropcloths and shit, doing it on my own, and getting really shitty results. I’ve had experience with painting spaces before, and while I do consider myself capable of doing this myself, I would much rather be doing something else. Like working my actual job.

I would rather share the job, make less profit, and get it done faster and more efficiently, instead of doing everything ourselves, stretching ourselves thin to deliver a kind of passable outcome.

Not to say one is better than the other

I find that at least in my conversations with Trung, this dichotomy of people exist like people who prefer showers over baths; people who eat the soup first before noodles; or people who really like Metallica or just think that they are self-centered babies because of that documentary.

There are downsides and upsides to being either type of person. I always concede with the knowledge that I will never become rich, but also comfort myself with the idea that at least I won’t spend 90% of my life being tired or sweaty or stressed out. All of the things I hate being.

I’m pretty comfortable with where I stand on this, and I have to admit also that I kind of enjoy talking about these differences with people.

To some extent, I also see it related to the type of people who either like super focused projects or those who like various things happening at once.

#AEASea: “Faster Decisions With Style Tiles” by Samantha Warren

Samantha Warren. What a cutie-pie. Anybody who starts a talk with a story about bananas and monkeys is a gold star in my books.

Design tiles are her way of building a pattern library for clients.

In her talk, “Faster Design Decisions with Style Tiles,” Samantha brought up a really big shift in how we handle websites today. I don’t know exactly when this thing exploded, but D-I-Y has stretched itself from handymen and Martha Stewart floral arrangements to how we all manage ourselves online. Whether it’s a personal blog, portfolio, or a giant conglomerate’s website, we all want control over our content.

It’s not enough to have a static HTML page that you set and forget like a Ronco Rotisserie anymore. And with good reason. We’re all realizing what we’re capable of, and long gone are the little lines of text that say, “Questions? Contact the webmaster.”

We’re all fucking webmasters now! (I mean “fucking” in the descriptive sense, not as a verb.)

In her talk, Samantha points out that we aren’t just putting together mock-ups for people, but systems for them to work with.

Websites aren’t just store-fronts to display our wares. They’ve now become actual platforms for communication, and that’s what’s so exciting about it. I love this idea because it’s a focus on exchanging information and growing together, rather than just throwing your hat in the ring and hoping for the best.

There is push and pull content, not just push alone.

It’s easy to fall back on blaming the client for their lack of creativity or imagination. And I know there are tough discussions about that. But the more I think about it, the more I think it a poor excuse for doing a bad job.

In most cases, projects can go to hell because everyone is looking out for their own best interests. And of course if something is always someone else’s fault, then everyone ends up sucking monkey balls on a hot day.

Her suggestions about abstracting a website’s look and feel goes much further than avoiding “franken-comps” and fights with the client. Style tiles and other such methods give value to the designer-client relationship, in my opinion. It becomes less about giving someone a product, and more about engaging them in an actual conversation.

We then allow ourselves to reflect and consider different options, rethink certain decisions, and maybe get to better solutions than what we first pitched.

I like the notion of working with your clients as people who have their own thoughts and ideas, and giving them the platform to share this—not just giving them a product in a box. It makes the job sound less stupid and a little more meaningful.

Just as we are realizing that the web is fluid and alive and organic, I think we should be transferring that idea into how we treat the people we work with, too.

The client shouldn’t be some kind of cartoon in a suit talking to a car-phone. The same way designers shouldn’t be thought of as pixel-pushers and drones in black turtlenecks.

How much confidence and good will can you foster with this approach? I think a lot. The same way you have charities and organizations empowering women, kids, minorities that change social perspectives; giving anyone a great set of tools and the opportunity can set so many things in motion.

While design can ultimately seen as a service, I think it also helps to see it as a relationship. There is trust needed and guidance involved from both parties. It isn’t one person pushing their expertise on another, but equals with each something to offer.

And if we start with that common ground, instead of “I am here to fix things for you,” then we all get to have a nice time at the party. Nobody wants to talk to that asshole who thinks they know everything. And nobody wants to be said asshole, either.