When I’m trying to read something, I don’t need my eye distracted by unnecessary movement. Is this a hard concept to grasp? Not if you’re capable of tying a shoe, it isn’t. Yet it amazes me not only how many sites haven’t figured this out, but which ones.
I’m not even talking about ads. They’re not the source of the problem. Where we run into trouble is that on news or magazine sites, where the article is the star and they want to encourage people to read their content, there’s often a sidebar on the right with auto-playing video, and/or a Twitter feed that keeps cycling through posts.
Honestly, I can’t even fathom the stupidity of that.
The rolling video is a big problem. On some sites (I can’t even remember now which ones), not only are they autoplaying a video, but it’s in a carousel full of other videos. I’ve seen cases where you can maybe stop the video if you’re lucky, but the carousel itself can’t be stopped and as soon as it rolls to the next video, it plays.
Actually let’s face it, even static images are a bad thing when they’re in a moving carousel on the sidebar. It’s not the carousel that’s the problem, but the fact that it’s in motion by default and in some cases can’t be stopped. If I want to browse through the site’s other stories, and hit play on a video preview that looks interesting, I’ll do it. Now let me read the article in peace.
The Twitter widget is almost worse because it replaces a horizontal motion with a vertical one. New posts (and not always new) appear at the top and others slide down. Even if not for the sliding, you still have content changing constantly on the sidebar which is bad enough. But the sliding really confuses the eye. I can’t imagine this is helpful for anybody. Is there something inherently wrong with a static display of the last N posts on Twitter?
Don’t get me wrong, I like the interactivity of the Web compared to how it was a decade ago. But if I’m on a page for an article, my primary reason to be there is to read an article. It’s not a home page, where I expect glitz. So anything that gets in the way of my reading by default is not doing its job properly. By all means, give me the video carousel, but leave the video in standby and make sure the carousel doesn’t move till I tell it to. Throw in the Twitter feed if you want, but don’t make it move or change unless I ask it to.