I should have started blocking web page elements well before now

September 13, 2015

uBlock Origin has a feature where it adds a 'Block element' option to Firefox's popup page menu (and I think other adblockers do too). For a long time I ignored it; after all, I had already had an adblocker (several of them, in fact), so what need did I have for yet another way of blocking ads, a manual one at that? Let me tell you, I was wrong. I was wrong about ignoring it, and wrong about what I should be using it on. I discovered this because I recently started using it and it's made a real difference in my experience of the web.

The secret is that the thing to use 'Block element' on is not ads, it's all of those floating bits and pieces that modern websites like to put on top of their content. 'Please subscribe', 'please tweet this', 'please see this other thing'; for some reason far too many websites are far too in love with little messages and calls to action of that sort. What makes these things especially irritating is that they don't run the full width of the page. This screws up page-based scrolling and acts as a constant partial intrusion into the side of the content.

(Conventional overlaid headers and footers run the full width of the page, which I usually find less obtrusive. They may make me unhappy by taking away content space, but they no longer cause problems with page-based scrolling.)

Before I started this experiment of blocking all of those floating elements I didn't realize how much they irritated me and degraded my site browsing experience for sites that they appeared on. Now that I'm aggressively getting rid of them, well, I've been surprised at how much of a difference it makes in how I feel about some sites. They seem to have been yet another one of those low level irritations that I don't realize were nagging away at me until I get rid of them.

(Perhaps they are less obtrusive for other people because other people browse with much wider browser windows than I do, so the floaters aren't necessarily over the content but instead over unimportant side elements. Or perhaps the people designing these sites just don't care.)

Written on 13 September 2015.
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Last modified: Sun Sep 13 01:22:06 2015
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