If You’re Asking Users To Turn Off AdBlock, Don’t Let It Ruin Your UX
Sean McGowanJuly 19th, 20184 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
Want to know one of the best things about the blog post you’re reading right now? Other than the compelling, actionable content and clear mastery of language the author demonstrates?
That’s right, the complete lack of advertisements!
I’m lucky enough to write for a publication that doesn’t depend on ad revenue (we’re more interested in the UX design and development game), but for sites whose sole purpose is content creation, that revenue is indispensable to their business model.
And sites subscribing to that model are grappling with a serious problem: the proliferation of adblocking software, most notably the aptly-titled AdBlock. Available as a free extension for just about every browser out there, AdBlock offers a value proposition that’s hard to beat: ad-free web browsing.
How do publishers that rely so heavily on ad revenue combat this pesky plugin? No matter the size of your website or the space you’re publishing in, Codal has the strategy to help you thrive in the age of AdBlock, without sacrificing your user experience.
Before you can bypass your user’s AdBlock, you first need a reliable way to detect it. The most popular method seems to be checking if certain JS files are being obstructed by your user’s browser—there’s plenty of scripts floating around GitHub that you can easily plug into your site.
You could also build an AdBlock detection mechanism from scratch, but you’d have to conduct rigorous testing to ensure it works across all combinations of browser and ad blocking software.
And while we’re tinkering under the hood of your site, you’ll also want to throw in an analytics tool to measure how effective your anti-Adblock strategy is. Are ad-averse users bouncing immediately if you ask them to whitelist?
Pick A Plan Of Attack
Now that you’ve identified the visitors using AdBlock, it’s time to circumvent it. There is a slew of different strategies that achieve this, each one offering their own advantages and drawbacks.
Starting with the most severe countermeasure, you could choose to go nuclear and deny all access to your site’s content to users with AdBlock enabled. To say this hurts the user experience is a bit of an understatement—it’s not offering an experience at all. As you’ve probably seen in your own web browsing, this isn’t a very popular methodology.
Another method is to circumvent their Adblock by serving up the kinds of ads that the software whitelists. The issue with this method is that you’re ignoring the user’s wishes for an ad-free experience. Plus, your technically savvy users will find ways to block those whitelisted ads anyway. And if you were to implement a way to circumvent that, you’ve now escalated this into an arms race with your audience.
By far the most popular strategy for getting users to disable their AdBlock is simply to ask politely. If you’re publishing engaging content that draws a sizable audience, chances are they’re invested enough in your value prop to oblige.
Forbes's AdBlock Request
Of course, even asking nicely can throw a wrench in the cogs of a well-oiled user experience. It’s important that you integrate your request to turn off AdBlock into the existing experience, rather than hitting the user with a jarring, annoying pop-up. If you’re going to use this strategy to get your users to turn off their blocking software, you need to ensure you’re doing it right.
The Art Of The Ask
Let’s start with the timing. Just like asking a friend for a favor, you don’t want open with a demand—don’t include your anti-AdBlock request on your homepage, about page, contact page, content category pages, or any other auxiliary page that doesn’t include the actual content.
And even when a user does click on an article, don’t immediately ask when the page loads either. Wait until they’ve scrolled down a few times, or have spent a few minutes on the page. It’s important you offer a teaser, some sort of preview of the content itself to entice the user.
Some experts recommend displaying a third or even half of your article before asking to turn off AdBlock. In fact, one study found that the teaser method cut bounce rate in half and increased the number of users who disabled AdBlock nearly threefold.
By now, the user has expressed interest in your content and has indicated that they’re reading what you’ve published. They’ve taken an interest in your value proposition, so now is the time to pop the question and ask them to turn off their AdBlock.
The request itself should be tailored to your audience and match the style and voice of your content. If you’re publishing for a buttoned-up, professional audience, you want to ask them to disable AdBlock in a more formal manner.
Ad Blocker Disable Request from Splinter News
In addition to matching your content’s tone, your request should also mirror your branding visually, most likely by using the same fonts and style that your content uses. This is to ensure your visitors know the request is from you, and not some shady third party.
The best anti-AdBlock requests also explain why the user is being asked to turn off this plugin. This is a great opportunity to inject some pathos into this UX interruption—is it to pay your employees, pay for hosting costs, keep you from living off the streets? It’s a chance to get a little creative too, and potentially throw some humor in there.
The Balancing Act Of UX
The problems that AdBlock presents are no stranger to UX companies (especially ones that offer WordPress design services), because they’re representative of the larger challenges inherent to our industry.
User experience design is often a balancing act, a sort of digital tug of war between your goals and the user’s. Often times these goals overlap, other times—like in this instance—they’re diametrically opposed. It’s the latter occasion, where you want one thing and the user wants the opposite, where UX is truly valued. And that’s where the experts shine.