• Tony Grant

Website UX: Pop-Ups Vs No Pop-Ups

Pop-ups pretty much go against UX best practice principles, yet, pop-ups have stood the test of time.

They do convert, as well as numerous case studies supporting that statement, tests personally performed have shown leads generated increase up to 15%. The one aspect that seems to be hard to crack, is brand & experience impact. Yes, you might be getting more leads, but are you p**sing more people off who may have converted.

This post is to help highlight the considerations, questions and options before implementing. 

Often pop-ups are surrounded by subjective, reactive statements like 'we need leads now, let's add a pop-up', or they're not implemented because 'We think they are annoying, people say they are annoying, therefore, they are annoying'. The thing is, only the business can work out what is best for the customer & it's bottom line.

Let's get one certainty out the way. In 2017, Google announced they were going to penalise a website that had intrusive pop-ups (not cookie policies or any other legal requirements) that hinder the accessibility to the user. In short, Don't use them on mobile, they look awful, the UX is awful and Google has basically said they're awful - easy.

So before you make the decision to use them on DESKTOP, or not - let's take a look at some of the pros and cons.

The pros

Conversion – The average conversion rate for pop-ups is 3.1% (Sumo) and there are many case studies stating pop-ups increase lead generation (I'll tell you how to increase this 3.1% later). 

  • Disruptive – Pop-ups disrupt the users' cognitive flow, whenever there is a sudden change in environment we (humans) instinctively react, breaking us away from the task we were trying to complete - yes, this could also be detrimental.

  • The focus is on one message, one point of action – With so many different messages, information on websites, pop-ups provides space to focus on one action point.

  • Targeted by behavior & audience – The UX has improved dramatically in recent years, now, businesses have the ability to be less intrusive and enabled to decide when to present the pop-up, to who, where and when.

  • Quick and easy to implement - There are many tools that allow businesses to create pop-ups without technical support within minutes (more if you're having a bru). Just don't go too mad with the power.

The cons 

  • Block content - The majority of pop-ups load after a period of time, therefore, the user has already started to digest your content, all of a sudden they are interrupted which could possibly annoy & deter them from finishing their task.

  • The user has to make a decision - Great when they convert, however, if you get it wrong you will only exaggerate your intrusion.

  • Increase bounce rate - as often the action to take can be to leave your site.

  • The potential loss of leads - Even if your pop-ups generates leads, you could be losing others by interrupting them. Users may not be ready to purchase yet, pushing them to soon could push them away.

  • Damage web experience & brand perception - Pop-ups are spammy in nature, which doesn't necessarily boost trust and confidence to your audience.

If you do decide pop-ups can add value to your marketing strategy, consider these guidelines to reduce friction.

Basic guidelines

  • The offer needs to be of value & relevant - If you are going to interrupt someone, ensure the offer is 'an offer' and relevant to that audience.

  • Where to display - Consider the pages you present pop-ups on & if the messaging should differ. You don’t need pop-ups on every page, nor do you need to offer to every type of visitor.

  • Who to display to - Don't assume every audience will want the same offer. Often users visiting your website will be at a very different stages of the purchasing funnel.

  • When to display - Please don’t just trigger them right away, give users a chance to view your page before you block it - Personally, I hate it when I walk into a shop, I haven't yet looked at one product and the sales assistant comes to me 'here are our best offers', at that point, I do usually walkout (whilst saying, 'that's great thanks', I'm British) - don't make the same mistake. Also, only offer once if the user closes the pop-up.

  • Make them easy to close - Don’t force users to click some tiny ‘x’ to close your pop-up and only offer once. Respect them saying no.

This may seem obvious if you're going to use pop-ups, do them well. Develop a strategy and testing plan to reduce friction, increase conversion and identify the right messaging and display to the right target audience.

In summary

There is no distinct answer to 'do' or 'don't'. Only the business can decide & monitor the results. Asking questions like 'are those email sign-ups worth the loss of traffic?' 'Are we targeting the right messaging offer to the right person and at the right time'? These are the kind of question you need to be asking and you’ll only get the answers from solid data - so of course, you need to test them.


Ensure you correlate pop-ups to a significant impact on commercials. If not, they might not be worth having and impact brand perception and hinder website experience which in turn could create a negative 'halo effect' on your business.

Related Pages

4 Element to Improve Your Landing Page


© Smarter Web Conversions 2020