There’s been much coverage about WhiteHouse.gov running WordPress, and it will always be warming to see one of the most visible websites on the internet running an open source site builder that everyone in the world can use.


iThemes Security Pro

You don’t need an intergalactic bounty hunter to fight bad guys. iThemes Security Pro will secure and protect your WordPress sites from the wretched hive of scum and villainy across the internet! Prevent hacks, security breaches, malware and more. This is the way.


From Dave Amirault, Pagely, Whitehouse.gov Chooses WordPress, Again: “Personally, I’m a sucker for clean and focused designs, and the new Whitehouse.gov delivers on both those fronts. Images are clean, not overused and work to supplement the content on the page – not overtake it. The site’s navigation is simple and does its best to guide users through the site’s taxonomies.” Dave also loves the mega menu in the footer. Of course we also have WP Tavern’s Sarah Gooding, Biden White House Sticks with WordPress for Website Relaunch: “President Joe Biden took office today and unveiled a new whitehouse.gov that has been relaunched on WordPress. The previous administration switched from Drupal to WordPress in 2017, and technologists working with the Biden administration decided to stick with the same CMS.”

Update: The Mea Culpa

So all of the above is still perfect but a lot of discussion happened in this Twitter thread announcing the post. While I stand by my larger thoughts around badly implemented 3rd party integrations, I was wrong about what was happening at WhiteHouse.gov. Mom always said admit mistakes fast and completely. Additionally discovered an interesting lazy load issue on this site. Big kudos to Jeff Matson and John James Jacoby for debugging both issues. I’m going to leave the rest of the original article up for posterity, and hopefully some of the more valid ideas still resonate.

Back to the Original Post

But there is one very big fail. I don’t think there is a single excuse that’s acceptable for a website to not be fully functional if an ad blocker is running. It’s at best some bad practices and architecture, or worse, pervasive and intrusive tracking. I had a quick blurb about this in Your Site is Broken Because of Ad Blockers?! I’ve experienced this issues on simple forms, solutions where I am already logged – really? I am logged in, you can track literally everything about me at this point without dropping tons of javascript, and now WhiteHouse.gov.

Mid-Article Update: Joe Casabona reached out immediately regarding this article, and I’ve made a slight edit to tone in the above paragraph, his very strong point, “I would just say web development is hard and they’ve achieved WCAG 2.1 accessibility on a very fast loading site. To say they are being lazy or sloppy is patently not true.”

Enter the Ad Blocker

I use 1Blocker, default settings, and I don’t feel I need to tweak anything. I actually started using ad blockers just so I could speed up the loading of sites on my iPhone, and hey you’ll be surprised to know that it makes a huge difference in performance, and frankly readability! So let’s see what is happening at the White House.

The first set of screenshots are generated using MacOS Big Sur (11.1), Safari (14.0.2), and 1Blocker (3.12.1).

WhiteHouse.gov with ad blockerWhiteHouse.gov mobile with ad blocker
1Blocker vs No Blockers

There are some very significant design and functional differences! The entire hero section of the home page is gone. Yup, nothing, nada, nichts. Footer? What’s that? How does this impact use? First and foremost the top level call to action C(TA) is gone, so guess what, I can’t follow the White House on Facebook or Twitter. Second, with the footer missing, we are unable to Get Involved or visit the Briefing Room quickly. All social media links are missing, even in the MENU. There is no reason that these should be tied to tracking scripts. It’s a mess. Let’s take a look on mobile.

WhiteHouse.gov mobile without ad blocker
1Blocker vs No Blockers

We see the exact same issues as in the desktop version. I (and I am sure many others), won’t be able to feel Dave’s excitement about how a mega menu should be done. On the plus side, look at all the scrolling that I’m missing out on!

The internet is changing, more services will be connected to websites, that’s why it’s more than ever critical to really put your site through its paces. Avoid products are denied by reputable blockers, and realize that more and more of that functionality will be baked into browsers. You’re only preparing for the future by being blocker friendly.

Subscribe to the daily-ish #MorningCoffee today.