Content-blocking Apps affect more than just ads. E-commerce sites now face a new reality.

iOS 9's content blocking feature has gotten a lot of discussion from the tech community. Mostly on the subject of ads no longer loading from third-party scripts when using the content-blocking feature. And that is pretty much where the discussion remained.

Blocking third-party scripts is not new technology. Ever since the first 728x90 leader-board ad made its first obnoxious appearance, users have been finding ways to block ads from loading on sites. The web has a long history of trying to get users attention through ads, as well as a history of blocking and ignoring them. So this latest chapter of ad-blocking isn’t new. However, the difference this time is that it affects more than just ads.

When users install and enable content-blocking apps on their iPhones, they block all third-party scripts. This includes many services e-commerce sites employ. Companies like Optimizely, Salesforce, DoubleClick, or even Omniture are prevented from running on these sites. At best, this merely results in inaccurate data and analytics for these vendors. At worst, any kind of functionality that dependent on third-party script to operate will fail.

Evaluating options

Block the content block: This latest change in the mobile-user landscape presents a few options for companies that rely on third-party vendors. One option is to check against the browser client for any scripts failing to initialize. If that test fails, you can warn or prevent the user from continuing without these scripts enabled. This option is problematic because forcing users to operate a site in one prescribed manner has never worked.

This kind of strategy will merely deter users from your site. We have tried this with getting users to download the latest browser in an effort to steer them away from outdated browsers like Internet Explorer 8, as well as many attempts to steer users to download our apps through interstitial ads. It isn’t affective and increases the site’s bounce rate.

DIY: Another option is to make your vendors tools in-house. Your servers are capable of collecting access requests and errors through logging which are processed into usable data analysis with tools like AWStats or Splunk. A/B Testing tools like Split for Ruby on Rails can bring your marketing tests server-side. By using server-side tools instead of third-party vendor tools, your site will not be impeded by these content-blocking apps. However, this adds an extra layer of complexity and support you need to provide for your site.

Deal with it: The last option is to live with the reality that users are going to visit your site in ways that you cannot control. This isn’t a new reality for us. We cannot control the bandwidth our users have for their devices any more than we can control their shopping habits or even their Internet savviness. The burden is on us to give users the best experience possible. User now get to decide if they want to load web fonts, display ads, be part of our A/B testing. It’s on us to make sure that our sites do not break from missing JavaScript libraries, and our sites are just as function without these tools. This goes back to good UX design, progressive enhancement, and accessibility. Content blocking apps merely add a new layer to what we already contend with-giving users what they want.