Pop-ups: Yay or Nay?

April 27, 2016

In the early to late 1990’s, pop-ups took over websites, screaming about deals, promotions, affiliate websites, and making navigation difficult or impossible. It’s no wonder that these multiple window pop-ups have been outlawed by the Google Terms of Service.

What we’re seeing now is a new generation of pop-ups; the modal window. Also known as overlays or modal dialogues.

These modal windows are an overlay within the same browser window that calls out your user to complete an action. In Toronto website design and marketing, these windows are used to dangle a carrot in front of your user — to distract them from leaving your site or completing any other action before they register their email address or download your asset.

While there are experts who have mastered the art of the modal window, the reality is that they are extremely easy to abuse. To set up and forget. To emerge and immediately distract your viewer from converting, from receiving the information they were looking for, and potentially even preventing them from exploring your website any further. It can be a short-sighted tactic, sacrificing the impression you give to the majority of your site’s visitors to capture the information of a few.

While there is a time and a place where a modal window may be appropriate and offer value, website design firms in Toronto should consider using them few and far between.

Different types of pop-ups

Modal windows can include a vast array of information, but the most common reason they are used in marketing is to increase conversion. Whether it’s a download, site registration, purchase, or contact email, the goal is to gather customer information to filter them into the sales funnel.

The most popular form of user prompt is the subscribe window. Blacking out the background of the website and restricting further access, these pop-ups often ask for a name and email to subscribe to a newsletter of blog updates.

“But wait, there’s more!” windows often offer a downloadable asset, whether it’s an ebook or whitepaper related to the page, or simply a link to another section of the website to coax users to stay on the website.

One of the more frustrating user experience modal windows is the site registration that prevents you from access to the site without subscribing, signing in with Google or Facebook, and then submitting their information for marketing material.

Let’s take Quora’s modals window as an example. You can view one question and answer without logging in, but try to navigate anywhere else on their site and you’re immediately forced to log in through the pop-up that appears below.

Web design Toronto

On the other hand, one of the least obtrusive forms of pop-up window includes the click to chat. These usually pop up at the bottom or side of a page, don’t impede navigation, and are useful forClick To Chat websites that feature a high level of industry knowledge (such as IT), or where customer questions are quite common (such as phone services). For example, LiveChat’s own website chat window that follows you around, but doesn’t get in the way — then opens into an actual chat window where you’re interacting with a real live person.

Interacting with a real live person.

Different times for pop-ups

The timing of a modal window pop-up greatly affects the user experience of those visiting your your website. Depending on the website content, a click-to-open window (such as in galleries, or to play videos) are user chosen pop-ups. These are rarely filled with marketing content and allow users to view something without navigating away from your page. Programs such as Lightbox allow users to quickly view something, grab the user’s attention and then get out of the way by clicking anywhere on the darkened background.

Pop-Up Lightbox

Timed pop-ups show up based on how long you’ve spent on the page. Case studies recommend 60 seconds, but there are sites that do so within 10-15 seconds of landing on the page. These can be considered entry pop-ups, because they’re impeding on your consumption of the page content  by showing up as soon as you land on the page.

The scroll pop-ups usually show up right when you’re in the middle of reading a blog, or halfway down a page. Haven’t found the information you’re looking for yet? Chances are you’re not going to subscribe to their newsletter or download their ebook. Then, once you’re leaving, you get the final plea to stay on their site with the exit window.

Why they don’t always work:

The fact of the matter is that modal windows are abrupt and in-your-face. Quite often they are asking for too much too soon when all you want is to see if the company even offers the service you’re looking for. As mentioned before, they’re easy to abuse, and some sites feature many different types of windows throughout a user’s visit — complete overkill.

The problem with asking for things before gaining your audience’s’ trust is that they’re not going to sign up for your newsletter if you’ve forced it on them before they’ve had a chance to determine if it’s worth yet another email in their already overflowing inbox.

Google has a plethora of rules regarding the use of ads on and leading to your website. In 2015 alone, Google busted 780 million bad ads. Of those, 2/3 were because ads were too close to buttons, causing accidental clicks. Google’s crackdown focuses on making it easier for your users to navigate your website and get the information they’re looking for.

The old-fashioned pop-up windows and pop-unders (that launched a new, hidden page underneath your current browser window) have been outlawed to offer a better viewing experience. Yet desperate marketers are interrupting the viewing experience to sell their product, beg them to consume more information or to stay on their website.

The tangible problems with pop-ups:

They can distract from the conversion action — Visitors get sidetracked easily and often, if they were going to check out a new blog or register their email for a free demo, but got a pop-up for an e-book that wasn’t really related, it could cause them to bounce right off your site.

You may not be creating an engaged list — Some marketers have goals for a larger following, but the true barometer of success is an engaged following. You really have to know your users and study the numbers to know when the best time is to ask them to sign up. Having a massive list that doesn’t return to your site, or even open your newsletters, actually means nothing for your conversion.

It’s not targeted — As mentioned, you really have to know how your target audience engages with your website and your content. Simply throwing up a pop-up and not relying on analytics or testing to see how well it’s actually converting is useless. The key is proper nurturing — the pop-up is just the beginning of the work. You then need to actually provide value for that subscription or registration.

They interrupt the mobile experience — Filling the entire screen of a smartphone isn’t ideal when searching for some quick information on a website. It’s rarely easy to navigate and can be distracting for the user. It can also completely restrict them from accessing the actual content on your site.

If you’ve been struggling with the best options to create more conversion for your website, a modal window or pop-up may not be your answer. Get in touch with our inbound marketing web design team in Toronto, and we can create a website for you that converts — without the in-your-face interruption of a pop-up.

Give Pixelcarve a call today and we’ll implement a better user experience on your website.