11 examples of crappy UX from news websites

Many news sites are struggling to make any money from this whole internet thing, so it’s natural that some are looking to maximise income wherever they can. 

Unfortunately, while perhaps they should be looking to ecommerce channels and elsewhere, adding more ads is the natural reaction, and this has drawbacks for the user experience. 

I regularly see ad formats which should have died years ago, as they interrupt the user experience and may drive many to ad blockers, or just to abandon the site. 

Here are a few examples… 

Slow loading pages

The independent now takes ages to load, to the extent where I rarely visit the site anymore.

This is the page a second or so in. You can see from the blank space the number of ad slots waiting to load. Problem is, until they load, I can’t read the rest of the article. 

The Indy needs to prioritise the loading of content over ads. If people have to wait that long to read articles, they won’t be seeing the ads at all. 

Retargeting

This isn’t necessarily the fault of Metro, but though retargeting can be a useful tactic, people can become irritated when they are chased around the internet by products, even more so when they have already bought them. 

In this case, I already visited the LinkResearchTools site to read an article on a site which received a Google penalty. However, I’m now seeing ads for it elsewhere.

I’ve read the article, I don’t need to see these ads. Likewise, if you have bought a pair of shoes already, retargeting isn’t necessary. 

Overpowering ads

These takeover ads are everywhere now. Some are reasonably subtle, but here’s an extreme example: 

They aren’t always that bad but some ads, especially with moving elements, can be a distraction when trying to read the article.

Yes, banner ads can have very low response rates as people tune out (as low as 0.01% according to Hubspot), but is the best solution to just create even bigger ads?

Video ads 

I think people are accustomed to pre-roll video ads, and the ability to skip after a few seconds is welcome. However, making people site through whole ads is risky, and can easily turn them off. 

Here on The Guardian you need to watch 20 seconds of ad before seeing the actual video you wanted: 

This is a bit much, especially in some cases where the video is less than a minute long, and it does deter me from watching them at all. 

News sites should consider capping the number of ads users see on videos, as YouTube does, reducing the time before skipping is allowed, and other formats such as overlay and clickable hotspots. 

Paying to skip ads

I saw this on Mashable recently when trying to view a video, and it strikes me as very odd. This service asks you to pay to skip ads. Seriously? 

To do this, you first have to register and fill in a captcha, by which time the ad would be finished anyway. A more likely response would be to hit the back button… 

Pagination

This is a way of inflating page views and therefore ad income, as foolish media buyers rely on pageviews. 

Take this example from Information Week. It splits an article titled ’10 iPad Problems, Solved’ over 12 pages:

Pagination like this is rubbish. It provides no added value to advertisers, and spoils the experience for users. 

Interstitials

A regular tactic used by Forbes.com and others. Just show me the article…

Overlays

Here’s one from the Liverpool Echo – I’ve probably rolled over the ad by accident to activate this, but it’s still horrible: 

Can’t see article for ads

I think it’s fair to saw that some sites overdo it. Here, I can barely see any news content on The Denver Post website. Ads dominate the majority of the page. And it doesn’t get much better when you scroll down. 

OK, news sites need some ads, but you’ve got to remember to promote your own content as well. 

Automatic audio

Automatically playing audio is an appalling thing to do to your users, yet sites continue to do so.

Unfortunately, this practice has crept back into mainstream news sites in the past year or so, and the Independent is one such culprit. 

On the right of the article, video with audio starts playing the moment the page loads (which is quite a while as explained earlier). It even plays a pre-roll ad: 

§ 

To make matters worse, it isn’t immediately obvious where the pause/mute button is. 

I often (and I’m sure I’m not alone)listen to services like Spotify online, and having an ad on a webpage suddenly blast out sound is a massive interruption, especially when you have the volume cranked up. 

Crappy related articles

This is a new one, and something Louis Gudema wrote about on this blog recently. Related article recommendations appear for third party sites at the foot of articles. 

Here, on Time.com, an article about Egypt’s coup/revolution is followed by these not very relevant links: 

As Louis says – and this applies to many of the examples here – this is what happens when the money people on a site win out over the editorial and user experience people. 

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11 examples of crappy UX from news websites

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