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The initial situation is: a user clicks on a preview image that triggers an overlay to start a video. The overlay has an "X" button in the top-right corner that stops the video and closes the overlay.

A client's idea is to disable the close button for 30 seconds to force the user to watch the ad that precedes the video. After the waiting period the regular close button would appear.

While this idea is questionable itself as far as UX is concerned, the question is related to the close button: Should the close button be disabled, i.e. greyed out and made non-clickable or should it be removed? Or to put it differently: which option is less confusing for the user, keeping in mind that bounce rates, pages per visit and the percentage of returning users are important KPIs?

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Whether there is a disabled close button or not one at all, I would assume forcing someone to sit through a 30 second ad is going to absolutely kill your KPIs regardless. By making the ability to close the video ambiguous you main gain a few seconds as they struggle to close the video, but they'll still bounce. –  Charles Wesley Jun 23 at 14:45
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Yes, there's no doubt about that, that's what I meant with "this idea is questionable". But let's assume there's no way to avoid the "feature". The question still remains: disable or remove? –  msparer Jun 23 at 14:50
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If there's no close button on the video, I'll be hitting the close button on the browser. –  Ken Mohnkern Jun 23 at 18:28
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Is your website withholding the fountain of youth because I would be upset if I couldn't get the last 30 seconds of my life back after sitting through such a lengthy ad. You'd better have some very very compelling content if you are forcing me to sit through a 30 second ad. 100% expect me to open my developer tools and delete your ad node and if I am really feeling fancy then I will ad your site to my adBlock. –  MonkeyZeus Jun 23 at 20:43
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@KenMohnkern me too. if the client really insists on implementing we'll do it as A/B test and compare the page unloads and then try to let stats speak –  msparer Jun 24 at 7:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 25 down vote accepted

I would disable but add a count-down timer or some kind of indication that they will be able to close the ad at some point.

YouTube has done this well with their "skip ad" countdown:

enter image description here

This gives positive feedback that acknowledges that you have taken away control from the user (which they do not like) but that you'll give it back really soon.

I would also encourage the ads to be much less than 30 seconds, and I would allow the user the option to skip the ad before the ad is finished.

If they're really not interested in the product, then forcing them to sit through the entire ad isn't going to generate a sale anyway.

In contrast, giving them the option to skip the ad or keep watching it if they're truly interested empowers the user and will also be gentle on the KPIs.

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6  
Just a thought, too: if certain ads get skipped more or less often than others, or by certain types of users, you might be able to get some info from that to help target ads better. (And the better you can target an ad, the more money you can get away with charging per impression.) Like i said, though...just a thought. –  cHao Jun 24 at 0:16
    
I know several sites (tv and gaming) which do it like this. Most sites use a countdown of only 10 seconds, but sometimes one is forced to see the whole advert. –  Chris Jun 24 at 9:39
    
@Chris there are even sites that forces you to watch ads lasting for 3 to 5 minutes and pause the video when you go away (switch tab, scroll down/up, etc.). –  Zhouzi Jun 25 at 4:52
    
I would add, if you let the user close the popup before the ad is over, AT LEAST, you would still have the user in site... if you don't, chances get higher in losing the user all together. ADs are fine, going through them is okay, as long as you promise something worth watching after it, and let user decide to well... watch this later. –  Ayyash Jun 27 at 12:59

An incredibly hard question to answer. Not because of the difficulty per se, but because of the contradictory goals that the system is trying to achieve:

  • Trying to cause annoyance by forcing users to continue with something they may not like
  • AND trying to optimize bounce rate, pages per visit and returning user percentages.

Forcing users to see ads before being able to get on with their workflow is among the most hated things about Internet. Stubbornly doing this and the above KPIs will certainly suffer. Is that really worth all the traffic you lose when users abandon your site in annoyance? On the other hand, users would still be able to press Back using the Browser control.

I think you should make sure your client understand this before implementing his/her idea? But anyway, I understand where they are coming from with it. Sometimes we just don’t have choice.

Now, of the 2 options available: grey it out or remove it, at least the 1st option (grey it out) provides users with some kind of context: the button is there, but they cannot click it until they finish watching the ad.

An somewhat improvement would be: Tell them about the time remaining until they can close it using some kind of visual timer “You can close the video in 10, 9, 8… seconds”.. It would give them something to hope for in the mean time:)

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There's also the case where a returning visitor who has seen the close button before might get confused. A greyed-out button would suggest that the feature is there but currently just not available (yet) - or wouldn't it? –  msparer Jun 23 at 14:59
    
@msparer, yes, the greyed-out button, alongside the visual timer, would give them the necessary feedback and make them less confused –  Son Do Lenh Jun 23 at 15:07

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