As a user, you must have encountered those pesky pop-ups that start appearing left, right and centre the moment you land on a website. This manner of greeting has become so routine that you almost instinctively go for the mouse to start closing these pop-ups without even bothering to read what is written in those rectangular, colourful boxes. Just like swatting those accursed flies. The pop-up menace is more common among high-street online retailers, marketing blogs and resources.
If you care to observe carefully, these pop-ups come in a variety of forms – it can be an opt-in form that allows you to sign up for subscriptions, it can also be a message that displays the latest news and updates, a video promoting a product or a third party advertisement that the site owner has put there. You must have also seen those cookie consent pop-ups that show up as small banners at the top or bottom of web pages.
To pop-up or not to pop-up
Pop-ups are seen as big stumbling blocks as far as giving the best user experience is concerned. Despite this, pop-up remains one of the most popular methods of generating leads from online traffic. But the question whether pop-ups are good or bad depends on which side of the fence you are in – whether you are the user (visitor) or the site owner. If you’re a user, then pop-ups can be very annoying and the raison d’etre for leaving a website moments after landing on it. Now, let us switch sides and see why this conflicting interest happens between a user and a website owner.
User’s perspective – pop-ups are annoying
Most users feel that pop-ups are disruptive. Pop-ups stop the users from what they were doing by forcing them to look at something the site owner wants them to see rather than what they have chosen to see. They find the whole tactic as rude. And spammy. Let us examine why users find pop-ups bad:
- Pop-ups are disruptive. When pop-ups interrupt users when they were trying to accomplish something, they find them annoying. Pop-ups might generate leads but you can lose many others by interrupting user sessions.
- Force users to take action. When a user was trying to find the answer to his query in the page, and the pop-up forces him to read about an offer he has no interest in or it does not add anything to the value of the answer, it only succeeds in making him agitated.
- Pop-ups are rude. Some pop-ups are overly intrusive. There are pop-ups that come with the “close” button missing. In some cases, the reject buttons come with extremely humiliating lines like “I’m a loser and I will continue working for my boss” or “I don’t want the free SEO book and I’m happy being ignorant”.
- They block content. Whether they appear immediately upon landing on a site or as a delayed design, when they block the content, the users can get annoyed.
- Negative impression about the brand. The unwanted disruption can damage the brand reputation and give a negative impression of the site. This results in a lower tolerance for any possible future decisions that need to be made on the site.
- Pop-ups can be bad experience on mobiles. When the pop-ups are not optimised for mobile, they look awful and becomes a harrowing experience for the user. In worse cases, they render the whole site useless.
- Using pop-ups might seem desperate. When used inappropriately, pop-ups can make you look desperate and grabby.
Website owner’s perspective – pop-ups are indispensable
While pop-ups are largely seen as being irritating, to the site owner they are a wonderful tool for generating leads. The two main uses of pop-ups are:
- To get people to sign up for newsletters and updates or request a free “lead magnet” resource (e-book, checklist, articles, etc.).
- To increase follows on social media.
Advantages of using pop-ups
There are many reasons in favour of integrating pop-ups into the overall website structure. Some of their advantages include:
- More visibility. Pop-ups draw the user’s immediate attention to what you want them to see. Unless a delayed pop-up is used, it is the first thing that the visitors see when they visit your site. When you can create pop-ups intelligently and make them relevant to your content, you can keep the visitor engaged for a longer period of time and maybe pull them into your sales funnel. Pop-ups can be a boon to your business’s efforts to generate leads.
- More subscriptions and conversion rates. Studies show that the subscriptions and conversion rates increase more when we employ pop-ups. Pop-ups result in higher-than-average click-through rates.
- Improved user experience. Well, this may sound strange but in many cases, pop-ups enhance the user experience. When people want to subscribe to your posts or newsletters because they find them appealing, they have the choice to do so easily since the option is offered to them directly through a pop-up. Which means they need not look anywhere else on your site for the subscription or send an e-mail requesting for a subscription.
- Better brand image. When you employ a pop-up, and when you do it beautifully, it actually creates a good image of your brand. People who visit your site know that you have an e-mail newsletter or other free resources available and it can improve the trust factor too. With a good-looking pop-up design, the website sends out the impression of a much larger organisation!
- Boost conversion rate. Since pop-ups are in-your-face, they can improve the conversion rate. When you try to engage the visitors passively through a content in your webpage, they could be reluctant. But with pop-ups that grabs their attention immediately, they are more likely to engage themselves.
- They focus on one element. When you have a website with different content and messages, pop-ups enable you to centralise your messages in a single call-to-action (CTA). This is more effective than spreading the same message across all your posts.
- They are less intrusive than before. With more awareness of the need to provide better user experience, nowadays, the pop-ups are designed to be less intrusive than before.
Pop-ups best practices
Pop-ups are necessary for a business blog and despite its general negative impression, they remain in vogue and popular among website owners. They are an integral part of the industry and are not going anywhere, anytime soon. But how does one tread this fine line between being unbearably annoying and largely agreeable? We can examine some good practices like:
- Make the pop-ups unobtrusive. One could customise a better pop-up design so that they are less obtrusive. You should completely avoid the missing close button or humiliating lines (examples as mentioned before) as the close button. Instead, see if you could bring in some humour when trying to design the reject button.
- Employ hover ads. There are pop-ups that hover over the main content as a transparent overlay that is easy to close. They usually load when visitors move down a page. They are captivating and less obtrusive.
- Employ a delayed pop-up. However, this is still dicey since your ad needs to be relevant to your content. If you’re using a delayed pop-up, make sure that they are easy to close.
- Avoid confusing buy-ins. There are sites that have pop-ups with no clear buy-ins. It will only add to the user’s confusion (and frustration) when it simply says “Sign Up Now” when you do not explain properly what they will get when they sign up.
- Make the pop-up unique. Make your pop-up different from the run-of-the-mill ones that you find everywhere.
- Avoid irrelevant content. Your pop-up should appear when it is relevant to the content. For instance, when you offer a free SEO e-book on a page selling stereo systems, the pop-up will look out of sync. Hence, in order that the free SEO e-book pop-up is relevant, it’s best offered on pages related to internet marketing.
- Do not request too much information in the pop-up. Although some businesses require more information, as a general rule, it is considered a good practice to request only a few details. In most cases, and in instances where the opt-in is for subscribing to newsletters or future blog posts, only the e-mail address is sufficient.
- Do not have too many texts in the pop-up. When you place too many texts in your pop-up, it will cause a distraction to the user and reduced conversion. Remember: less is more.
A pop-up is considered good when it does not annoy visitors, is well-timed and appears at pages that have information relevant to what is being offered in it. Your visitors’ experience comes first. They should leave your site satisfied and better informed than before. If you want to use pop-ups as part of your marketing strategy, you should mitigate all the negatives. As said before, employing a pop-up requires treading the fine line between being outright annoying and largely agreeable. Pop-ups have the potential to cost you leads, increase in bounce rates and damage your brand’s reputation. At the same time, they can increase sign-ups, result in better engagement with the visitors, and lead to more conversions. If you feel the gains outweigh the losses, then perhaps, you are justified in using pop-ups. If you can provide users with quality content, then they will not mind going the extra distance by taking an action (filling up their e-mail IDs and clicking a button) in exchange for free resources like an e-book.
Please leave a comment below on why you think pop-ups are bad for user experience or are necessary to generate leads. I’ll be most happy to update my content here from your comments.