Paul Butzi |||

An Open Letter to Web Designers

Look, I understand that the goal of most websites is to make money. I’m not opposed to commercialism. But you all are designing websites that are doing things that piss people off and I’m sort of wondering why. Because although I understand that a very small portion of the WWW is about direct commerce and a very large portion is about capturing people’s attention and then selling it to a third party, I don’t understand why you do some of the things you do.


I’m guessing that essentially zero people get the Let us notify you about important stuff’ popup when they visit your website and click the button that means sure, interrupt me at random times to tell me about crap you think I ought to care about.’

Pro Tip: essentially no one allows website notifications. Or, if there are people who agree to website notifications, they ignore the notifications when they get them. And if they don’t ignore the notifications when they get them, the annoying notification popup costs you more attention than you could ever gather using the notifications.

When I visit a website that is in the business of selling my attention to a third party (a news organization, say) what I don’t want is a huge barrage of popups that must be dismissed for me to read the content that brought me to the site. So if the content I’m seeking is only marginally of interest to me, or if your website suggests in any way that it’s offering a bad trade attention for information’ deal, I just click away from your website, and you don’t get a chance to sell my attention to anyone. Translation: it sucks to be you.

Subscription popups

Obviously, I do have an email address (in fact, I have a whole slew of them). So I understand that you think you’re being clever by making me click I don’t have an email address” to dismiss your enter an email address to subscribe to our newsletter’ popup. But what you’re really doing is pissing me off. And, as noted above, pissing me off is a bad move when you’re trying to capture my attention so you can sell it to some third party.

Advertisements that cover up content

If you were trying to come up with an entry in the What’s the best way to annoy readers?” contest, a really solid entry would be at random times after the reader has started reading the content, cover it up with an advertisement”.

I now have a spinal level reflex to find and click on the spot to dismiss these advertisements. I don’t look at the advertisement and think You know, maybe I should click on this and see what they’re selling”, I think Get this annoying crap out of my way so I can finish reading the damn sentence.”

Bottom line for Advertisers

I understand that your goal is to get your product in front of my eyes so that I know about it. But what you really want is to create a positive association between me, and your product. So doing things in your ad campaign that create a negative association is running counter to your goal. Why the hell do you do that? Are you just stupid?

Final conclusion

My takeaway from all this is that advertising on the web as it is generally conceived and practiced does not work. That’s why so many advertisers and websites engage in practices that build negative associations between the viewer and the website/products being advertised: there’s no discernible difference in results between worse than useless advertising and excellent advertising, because both are utterly ineffective.

The commercial media WWW is basically a bunch of people selling ineffective advertising to third parties, and a bunch of people who are for some unfathomable reason buying ineffective (or worse, negatively effective) advertising for their products.

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