Mobile's Best Friend Is A Crumbling Web Experience

Is it just me -- or does the Web really suck this season?

The level of ad intrusiveness is at an all-time high. I mean incredibly ill-advised techniques are becoming commonplace. I understand that telescoping rich media, flash overlays, and home page roadblocks are a necessary part of the holiday fight for mindshare and publishers' often desperate need to monetize. But where is all that native advertising when we really need it? If this is what online ad growth looks like, then hand me my smartphone. 

I am seeing lame-brained maneuvers occurring regularly. The auto-loading, audio-on video ad was once a signature of porn. Suddenly it is a commonplace pop-up at mid-tail sites. You just try to figure out which of those open browser tables is talking. And don't get me started about the pre-roll-to-content length ratio for video.

The list goes on. I am going to sites with no frequency capping on their most intrusive ad units, so a back button will re-invoke an irritating unit from its start point. And some sites have become virtual minefields between the in-text ads and sideline rich media units that get triggered by a mouseover. I often feel as if I am playing "Minecraft" just finding a neutral path for my mouse to work its way up to the bookmarks. Am I browsing or playing the latest "Legend of Zelda?"

The sheer weight of protocols on some of these sites is just freezing or crashing them altogether. Video or ad units often don't load properly. Ad calls clearly are adding lag to page loads. All of these things I would see on select sites from time to time. It is part of the ongoing “becoming-ness” of digital media. But I can never recall the volume and frequency of both unabashed ad intrusiveness and tech foul-ups.

And just to be clear, I am not talking solely of bottom-feeder sites and mid-tails dependent on their third-party network and exchange relationships. I am talking also about top-tier sites that expand a home page more than half the length of a screen, making me chase back the article I came to read. Or pop-ups and video overlays with delayed, invisible or microscopic close buttons. Again, Web browsing should be a smooth experience, not whack a mole.

And so is it any surprise that increasingly people are choosing to conduct more and more of their digital traveling on tablets and smartphones? Yesterday we saw eMarketer revise its projections of mobile media spend yet again. The tipping point is here. Mobile ad spend is freezing desktop ad expansion in its tracks. Within three years, they project, revenues from ads on devices will finally outstrip the traditional Web.

And high time. If the current state of site browsing is any indication, then the more focused and less cluttered environments of both the mobile Web and apps represent a superior experience. A few years ago I had written often about how the Web had to learn important lessons from mobile: cleaner design, focused content choices, simple share of voice for advertisers. Oops -- too late.     

"Broken Laptop" photo from Shutterstock.

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