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.)

Comments on this page:

Yes! Other handy things to do are hiding all youtube comments (as well as some of the other cruft), hiding elements which are filled in over time by XHR (and thus slow down scrolling and rendering), and hiding navigational elements you never use (sidebars that take up too much space for nothing very important, for instance).

Firefox has an interesting feature where you click a little open book icon in the URL bar, and it removes everything except the article's text, and reformats it to be readable. Works really well.

You know how every news article has those links to "related articles" that leave the site and are really just clickbait? Yeah, those are called Outbrain, and I blocked the hell out of them. I use Chrome and the getadblock.com version of AdBlock, so


pops up a lot in my custom filters.

By cks at 2015-09-14 13:08:24:

I want to like Firefox's 'Reader View' stuff, but the last time I looked at it the results were not really there for a number of sites I wanted to use this on. Perhaps I should try it again.

(My general approach for really badly styled sites is View -> Page Style -> No Style, which I have bound to a mouse gesture. Blocking elements is something I do on sites that have generally decent formatting except the floating elements.)

Written on 13 September 2015.
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