Don’t Hijack My Browser

Mike Ritter
Mike Ritter

As a person with a disability I find navigating most websites fairly straightforward. I can use the keyboard or a mouse to scroll up and down to view content. With just the space bar I can scroll the page a frame at a time.

Until my browser is hijacked by elements on the page. Then I have to use my mouse to get control of the experience.

Here are four frustrating ways websites hijack my browser.

Search Bar

Hey Google (and now Yahoo!), I’m talking to you!

I get that you want to make it easy for someone to get going on that search, but does my cursor really have to jump to the search box as soon as the page loads?!

You can set up the tab order using tabindex to take the cursor to the box on the tab click.

<input type="text" id="search" tabindex="1">

I get that Google has built this into their system and it’s the expected behavior, but it is a nuisance for people like myself who navigate with our keyboards.

First, it interrupts the browsing flow because I am unable to follow my keyboard shortcut (just backspace on most browsers) to go back a page.

Second, when I start pressing the space bar and want to scroll the page I’m just filling in the search bar. It just doesn’t work.

Confirmation Alert Box

Every now and then I’m surfing the Web and end up on a site with a confirmation box. Sometimes the box pops up on arrival, other times it pops up when I try to leave the page.

I know enough about programming to recognize an opportunity to insert malware. So I never click the confirmation. I don’t know if pressing okay will close the tab or take me to

My remedy is shutting down my browser then reopening it and tromping through history to the sites I had open.

Popup Ads

This one drives me crazy and I’ll wager most developers are guilty of this one.

Attractive popup ads are no longer an annoyance, but part of the business model of many websites. I’m left to watch the popup obscure my content. I get it. The company has to generate revenue. But the ad should get out of my way.

The standard was to timeout the popup years ago. Some ads creatively move to the sidebar in a static ad. Regardless of the technology, this is available functionality. Another former standard was to tie a keyboard shortcut like esc or x to a close function on the popup. But rarely do I see a popup that I don’t have to click an action item or a tiny close link in the top corner with the mouse.

Static Navbar

Finally, there’s the static navigation bar across the top of the page. Sometimes these are three or four lines tall. They are convenient, giving users easy access to site information.

But go back to scrolling.

When I tap space bar on a typical webpage the window scrolls down one frame. This is such a convenient way to quickly browse a page. As I pointed out above, hijacking my cursor gets in the way. But so do those fancy navigation bars.

Some websites account for the navbar adding padding to accommodate the bar across the top. However, plenty of popular websites are oblivious. As the content scrolls, several lines are obscured by the handy bar.

Am I Just a Curmudgeon?

Our lives as developers are already full of UX demands.

Another accommodation now from this guy who just wants to click his spacebar to scroll is not floating to the top of my list.

I get it. But imagine how all of the little tweaks you build into your workflow save you steps and then having to do away with them because somebody else just changed the way things are done. Look at recent decisions by Adobe and Google to shut down services, for example.

For people with mobility impairments, added obstacles to the content are a real barrier. Just getting a mouse cursor in the precise spot can be a chore.

But thoughtful design and graceful transitions can give the browser back to users like myself to enjoy our convenient web experience.