I absolutely do not think that Nick has been engaging in any dishonesty, skullduggery or underhand behaviour and I deeply regret any impression to that effect which I may have given. Nick is more than welcome to remove my previous post on the subject, and indeed I hereby request him to do so.
He has asked me to clarify my point, and I am happy to do so. He asked (I paraphrase) why he, as a web designer, should bother about the browsing experience of people who use adblocker software. I believe that he should, for several reasons. As should all web designers, so what follows is intended to be generic and emphatically not personal.
It's about graceful degradation. A website which looks at its best under Internet Explorer 8 with Flash installed (to take an example at random) should either be useable when someone visits using Firefox 4 without Flash or explain why it is not useable.
While it would not be possible to create a website which worked with every possible plugin, I think that Adblocker is now sufficiently common, under both FF and Chrome, that a web designer should consider its effects. Possible responses I have seen include
- Denying access to the website without explanation. This does not seem like a good idea to me, because the visitor will simply assume that the website is dead. (Some admin web applications at work do this to me if I am not on the VPN, and it's a pain.)
- Denying access to the website with an explanation that it's funded by adverts and that access is therefore dependent on viewing the adverts. I don't mind that - it lets me know what's happening and gives me the chance to make an informed choice. (Some admin web applications at work tell me I need to use the VPN, which is much better.)
- Putting something else behind the adverts to appear if they don't. That's fine, though of course it carries the risk that users may block the thing behind or even, if the site is popular enough, that the thing gets onto Adblock blacklists.
- Allowing the appearance of the website to be significantly degraded if the adverts aren't there.
The last is not, I think, a good solution. The adblocking user won't know why the page looks poor, and may be deterred sufficiently to move on elsewhere. That's not a good outcome if the page has been designed under contract for someone else - unless, of course, it has been agreed in the contract for the design. It's not a good outcome if other material in the page has been paid for (advertorial) unless it has been made clear to those clients that the page on which they are paying to have stuff displayed won't render as intended unless other adverts are displayed as well. If they know that and are happy with it then of course it's perfectly legitimate.
Except for one final ill-effect of any non-graceful degradation, which is the potential effect on the designer's reputation. If I visit a website produced by Bloggs' Websites Ltd and it looks bad without explanation ("To see this site properly, please disable ad-blocking software. Adverts pay for the content here."
) I might fall into the trap of thinking that Bloggs' Websites Ltd are not very good at web design and pass them over when looking for a designer.
So that's why I think Nick should care what websites look like when adblockers are used. I think it's in his interests, his clients' interests and his clients' clients' interests to do so.