I Keep Accidentally Clicking On YouTube's Ads And I Think I've Worked Out Why

7 June 2016, 16:54 | Updated: 17 July 2017, 12:16

We the Unicorns

By Benedict Townsend

Let's talk about accidentally clicking on YouTube's weird ads


Look, I love YouTube. You love YouTube, we all love YouTube. But I can't be the only one that has noticed that amongst all this love, there are some elements of YouTube's website that have always struck me as slightly infuriating. Take their ads. Now, I'm not talking about the usual complaints that people have about YouTube's ads (like I don't know, the fact that they exist), I'm talking about some weirdly specific quirks these ads have, that keep resulting in me accidentally clicking on them.

1. Banner Ads That Load After The Videos Results

This is a weird one. Whenever I search for videos on YouTube I always experience the same thing: the videos will load first and the ad at the top of the page will load afterwards. This happens regardless of what device I'm using or how fast my internet is. Here's a GIF to demonstrate what I mean:




As you can see, the ad loads a second later than the videos I was searching for. What this means, almost 99% of the time (at least for me) is that I go to click on the first result. So instead of that delightful pimple-popping compilation that I was eagerly anticipating I'm left with a link to GamerBoi69's ultra sick Minecraft gameplay sponsored by Doritos. Our internet here at Unicorns is pretty speedy, so the jump is pretty swift (though still noticeable) but for those with slower internet - aka most of the people in the world, the ad can suddenly appear a few seconds later.



2. The Case Of The Incredible Shrinking Skip Button

Here's something that is just baffling. As I'm sure you're aware, YouTube has a feature where an ad will play before the video you want to watch and after 5 seconds you can choose to skip that ad. Because after all, who doesn't love five seconds of a vague, cryptic car advert when they're waiting to watch Vine EPIC Fail Compilashun 2014 (GONE SEXUAL!) These ads are known in the 'biz as 'pre-roll ads' and aside from being generally annoying, they are also curiously designed. Let me show you what I mean. Here's the box that contains the countdown - I captured it from an actual preroll ad I found:


Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 16.46.44


And here is the box that appears for you to click on to skip the ad:


Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 16.46.54


Notice anything? No? Well what about when I put them side by side:

preroll both

Do you see that? The first box that appears is larger than the box that appears after it. Let's look at them lined up by height:

preroll test 2

As you can see, there is a slight but definitely noticeable change in size between the first and second boxes. Why does this matter? Miss-clicks. 'Miss-clicks' are defined as any kind of click you do by accident. So, for example, if you went to click the 'skip ad' button but missed the side of it and accidentally clicked the video underneath instead (which would then immediately take you away to an ad) that would be a miss-click. The sudden and random change of size between the boxes means that I will almost always accidentally hit the ad. I do quite frequently and I hate it. It means I'm always opening up ads I don't mean to.


Why This Is Worse Than You Think

Every click on an ad makes YouTube money - even clicks the user didn't mean to make. So if you take those accidental clicks and multiply them by YouTube's one billion users (by their own count), then you have an awful lot of ad money being gained through people's mistakes.

Now, let's be clear - am I accusing YouTube of doing all of this as some kind of huge advert conspiracy? No.  But if I've noticed it that means other people have too - and the fact I felt compelled to write about this issue, especially on a website like ours that is extremely pro-YouTube, that's not great customer feedback for YouTube's user experience.

YouTube has a responsibility to streamline it's service, or else it risks losing the confidence of users like me, who love it ever so much. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go and watch my favourite YouTube video (Vine EPIC Fail Compilashun 2014 (GONE SEXUAL!)) and probably accidentally click on like nine adult diaper adverts in the process.