Dear Google:

Last Updated on: 23rd February 2023, 03:42 pm

I don’t care how many times you ask me (it’s been three today alone), I am not turning on the fucking vignette ads. No, not even if you predict that my revenue will go up by 20% were I to do so. There is also no need for you to explain to me what they are. I know what they are. They’re annoying as shit and my decision to turn them off was a deliberate one. A deliberate one made by a man who does not enjoy being infuriated by the user experience of his own blog for reasons that are within his control.

Quite obviously, I do not mind ads on a website. The bills aren’t going to pay themselves. But what I do mind are ads that interrupt me while I am performing a basic task and in which I subsequently become trapped with no reliable means of escape. As a screen reader user, that is exactly what vignette ads are. I’m sure that most folks, as you say, can skip them at any time. I am not most folks. What happens to me is almost always some combination of the following:

  • My page load gets interrupted.
  • my arrows and navigation keys stop working, leaving me unable to properly navigate the window.
  • Sometimes I can tab once or twice and things will come into focus, but not always.
  • Sometimes I can shift tab once or twice and things will come into focus, but not always.
  • Sometimes I can tab and then shift tab and things will come into focus, but not always.
  • Sometimes I can shift tab and then tab and things will come into focus, but not always.
  • Sometimes I can hit escape, the ad will disappear and I’ll be back on the page I started on and will have to click the one I wanted again, but this is rare.
  • Even when I madly start mashing buttons until one of the above methods for regaining control works, half the time I still can’t find the close button on the damn ad until I madly hit a few more keys.
  • Sometimes, even after all of that, there is no close button.
  • In that case, I have to refresh, end up back where I started, then click once more on the page I wanted to visit in the first place before I got caught in the vignette and hope to god I don’t get caught again.
  • Thankfully I generally don’t, because the one good feature of vignette ads is that only so many of them are served to the same user in a given day.

There aren’t nearly as many steps to this dance on mobile, but vignettes are no picnic there, either. The worst thing that happens to you in that case is wasting a few frustrating seconds figuring out whether or not there is a close button and then just doing the refresh thing if there isn’t.

With all of this in mind, I decided several months ago that the number of vignette ads that will be served to my users on any given day will be zero. And it’s a funny thing. Once I turned them off, my revenue actually went up. Funny not only because it sure is odd that not making people hate your face on the regular might actually work as a strategy, but also because I’m not sure how all of the screen reader users who visit the place weren’t constantly clicking on the damn things by accident.

I’m glad we were able to have this talk. Hopefully it has helped you understand my position on this matter more clearly than before. And hey, if you ever figure out how to make vignettes less awful for guys like me, let me know.

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