One of the benefits of ad blocking software is the promise that it will speed up a user’s online experience. Without having to load ads, websites load quicker and give users faster access to whatever content or service they’ve come looking for.
However, a new study conducted in the U.S. by performance measurement company Catchpoint has found instances where ad blockers actually slow page load times on mobile devices.
Taking a sample of 20 websites for retailers, news organizations, financial and travel companies, Catchpoint ran a series of tests that timed how fast the websites would load both with and without a mobile ad blocker active.
While a majority of sites did load faster (2.01 seconds faster on average), many sites that weren’t particularly “ad heavy” populated more slowly.
“Sites that aren’t typically ad heavy, such as financial services, slowed the most with ad blocking engaged, despite having less content to load,” Catchpoint said in a release.
“Ad blocking did offer the intended beneficial speed impact (faster load time) on mobile retail sites, and had an even larger performance-boosting effect on news sites, which are normally the heaviest and most ad-intensive sites. But even within these categories, some sites’ performance declined with ad blocking on. In some cases, non-advertising files were blocked, delaying the start of page rendering”
Given the small sample size and majority findings, there’s nothing here to suggest ad blockers are harming the majority of browsing experiences, at least when it comes to load times. It does, however, speak to the role website design plays in user experience. “These are significant slowdowns as businesses grapple with increasingly impatient consumers,” Catchpoint stated, and as ad blockers gain traction among everyday web users, companies’ web experiences stand to be affected.
In its Q1 Ecommerce Benchmark Report from earlier this year, Catchpoint pointed to best practices for web design when it did a larger-scale assessment of online retailers’ page load times. “Websites in the top ten for webpage load times followed some similar best practices. For example, Staples, Best Buy, Target and Walgreens loaded the majority of their third-party content after webpage load, greatly eliminating external dependencies for end-user experience. Most of the websites in the top ten also had geographical consistency,ensuring uniform performance across all US regions.”