“Hey! This is a Pop Up!”

“Hey wait! You are missing out the best offer here!”. Nah…. You can’t wait to close the window right? Is this how you feel, like many others who do not like the experience of a pop up window to push you certain sales or just wanting to collect your email? You simply just hate it! User Experience (UX) is in the negative zone.

But wait, are not popular sites also using pop ups? Brands like Ikea, AT&T, Colgate etc all use pop ups. They must have also considered UX right? So if the big brands are doing it, it must be correct to do. Moreover you were told that sites with pop ups have a higher conversion rate than those who do not use pop ups. So even if UX is not good, you think you should compromise UX for conversion. Don’t we just love conversion? This argument of using pop ups has been going on for ages. And some people think pop ups are now dead and pass√©.

There are 2 conflicting signals whether we should be pop ups for not. Over the years, clients have asked us what is our experience with pop ups. Some clients insist on using pop ups. We told them if they do not like pop ups themselves, then do not onto others what you do not want others do onto you. But… there is a but… I think the key lies in having the pop up done without affecting (much) the user experience.


Is it the Solution to the Problem or is the Solution the Problem?

Let us take a step back in understanding why we think we need to use pop ups. Our problem is how to engage users and get them to subscribe to our mailing list by providing them some information or entice them with some discounts or offers. The solution: A prominent pop up. We are so afraid users did not take any action when they come to our site that we show them the offer during their browsing time and even at the last moment before they want to leave our site. But because pop ups have been overused widely across almost all the websites the users browse, pop ups becomes very annoying. Now the so called solution becomes a problem: Poor user experience.

Quick view is a form of pop up

For the sake of argument, we shall strictly discuss pop up ads in this blog. There are informative pop ups like a website maintenance schedule when a user lands on a page or a quick view pop up are not the discussion of this blog.


When does Pop Up becomes annoying and when not?

We learned that there are different times when a pop up can appear:

Entry When user lands on the page, the pop up immediately appears
Scroll When user scroll down a page, the pop up occurs
Click When user clicks on certain button, the pop up appears
Timed Calculate the time the user is on your page and pops up the ad
Exit When your cursor moves out of the page to other tabs or intend to close the page

As you can see, pop up can happen almost anytime during your stay on the website. It is like an ambush waiting for you to prowl onto you when scenario meets. From our experience, UX is bad when a pop up happens while user is browsing through your website at any point in time. Any pop up that occurs during this time is strongly associated as being pushed for a sale (even if you do not intend to sell). Therefore scroll and timed pop ups are not recommended as they appear to be annoying because they interrupted with user’s usage of the website. I guess no one likes to be interrupted.

Click Pop Up Works Better

In general, a click pop up is more acceptable because it follows after an action from the user. The user clicks on a button is expecting to be brought to another page. Although a pop up might not be exactly what he is expecting, it is more subtle. An example would be a “Learn More” button after an article which upon clicking, brings out a pop up asking for sign up to download a detailed version of the article. A click pop up, used in a correct context, does not severely damage ux. Of course one could have argued that instead of a pop up, why not insert a banner after the article to ask to sign up and download the full report. Well, a pop up with a right context can probably do better conversion. And it really depends on the quality of the written article.

Entry Pop Up is subtle but could be powerful

When a users lands on your site, you can inform the user in a form of entry pop up, of your current promotion, discounts and offers. Yes, the user might have to close your pop up, but from UX point of view, you are informing the user upfront. However it is unlikely you want to ask user to subscribe to your mailing list if he just chanced upon your website. Therefore the context of an entry pop up is still important. I see an entry pop up do compromise some UX because user has to close your pop up window to enter your site. Alternatively you may want to put up an announcement bar informing user of a certain promotion you are offering. This would avoid the use of a pop up.

Informative pop up on landing on the page

If you land to Amazon Singapore website, there is a little pop up asking you to sign in or a new customer can sign up. This little pop up stays for a while and disappears. This way of a pop up I think hardly compromise any UX. In fact, it kind of enhance the UX. It is subtle yet effective. It served its function in getting attention.

Exit Pop Up

You probably experienced this pop up every website you visit. You wanted to leave the website and it want to grab you just before you leave by telling you what you will miss. They know that once you leave, you may never come back. So they take the chance. The logic of using an exit pop up is “no harm trying” since you are already leaving and might never, ever come back again.

A typical exit pop up.

Exit pop ups interrupts the user so in terms of user experience, it is still not a good thing. For a first time user, the risk is, it leaves a pretty bad impression of the site. The first impression (or the last impression?) last isn’t it? If the user is browsing your site for more times, the exit pop ups would not make any sense. So when can we use an exit pop up? Probably never if you consider the 2 points above. Or maybe use it if the user is browsing your website on its 2nd or 3rd visit only?

Over the years, websites have came out with various ideas on exit pop ups. Many played around with words including the example shown above. Some are funny and some are elegantly done. I guess it all depends on your brand positioning and your target audience.


Putting Pop Ups in Context

I think there are other options to using pop ups. But if you think it is a must-have, you have to put in the correct context for your pop up so the UX of your website is not compromised or at least reduce any compromise to minimal. An incorrect association with your website (as not being professional or scamy) can hurt your brand in the long run.

There is a saying if content is king, then context is god. I think putting things into perspective is important. Rules, I think when using pop up are:

  • The context has to be right. The user’s experience has to be respected.
  • Entry, click and exit pop ups are better than scroll and timed pop ups in terms of UX.
  • Only use pop ups if there is no alternate ways to get your same message across. Why risk UX when there are alternatives?

Whether you love or hate pop ups, there are here to stay. A tool which is a double edge sword. Use wisely. If you like us to design a website for you, taking care of UX and conversion, please contact us at admin@crunchstudio.com.sg.