At The Outline, Hanson O’Haver bemoans the abusive state of web design: popovers, auto-play videos, ads that crowd out content, swarms of cynical dark patterns:

You’ll notice that these problems with web design are mostly found on websites that depend on traffic and advertising. You don’t see these issues on Amazon, Google, or Facebook, which are constantly — if not always successfully — trying to redesign to make their sites easier and more pleasant to use. These companies are focused on maximizing eyeballs, which means any aesthetic improvements that don’t directly boost traffic are not a priority.

The piece gives a shout to our work at About.com, where we designed several verticals and purposely “de-monetized” them—industryspeak for pulling out all those hideous ads. The result was a better user experience for readers (duh), but also a better experience for advertisers. When we pulled out the Outbrain/Taboola links, the crummy text links, and the zillion low-grade banner ads, the remaining ads got stronger placements, crafted to fit the design organically.

And get this: revenue is up because the sites have fewer ads. “The sales teams’ phones are ringing off the hook,” About CEO Neil Vogel tells us. Advertisers want more of this. They want more of less. Just like the rest of us. Everyone wins.

Too many sites let advertising corrupt their product, poisoning not only user experience but also the editorial (clickbait). Our recent work tells us it doesn’t have to be that way.

(The Outline also quotes Brad and links to his Death to Bullsh*t project, which demonstrates a fine collection of truly awful ad-driven dark patterns.)


Is your media company struggling with balancing revenue and user experience? We can totally help you with that. Get in touch for a workshop, executive session, or design engagement.


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