Web Design Best Practices

Pop-Ups: The Fruitcake of Web Design?

Fruitcake — the oft-decried culinary caricature of the holidays.

Fruitcake — the oft-decried culinary caricature of the holidays.

If you don’t like them, why would your users?

Ah, fruitcake. It sticks around, but no one really wants it.

Remind you of anything?

Let’s talk about pop-ups. Before you have flashbacks to the days of modem dial tones and AOL CD-ROMS, I mean what we now refer to as modal windows — overlays that open in-page on, say, an article you clicked on from Facebook that now wants you to subscribe for email updates. Some experts love them. They call it a “good user experience."

Why?

 

If you throw it against the wall enough, it eventually sticks.

Look, maybe your grandpa loves fruitcake. It’s an expected part of the experience, even though for the majority of those at the table it provides no additional value whatsoever. If a news site or blog is good enough that I’m interested in reading more on a regular basis, I’m going to find the subscription box and and sign up myself. Don’t interrupt me two sentences into my reading with a surprise overlay — that’s just rude. Worse yet, don’t “hide" the subscription box somewhere out of the way just because you threw a pop-up in my face while I was trying to do something else.

 

Not all pop-ups are created equal.

Some modal pop-ups are less intrusive than others. You’ll surely encounter a few this holiday season offering a discount on your next purchase for subscribing to email updates. As a user, I’m typically okay with this, especially if I was planning on buying something anyway. I was just offered a discount I wasn’t expecting in exchange for something I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise. Retailers understand something here that content marketers don’t — if I haven’t decided that your content is valuable enough to me that I want to take the time to give you my email address, then it feels like you’re asking me for a favor. The least you can do is offer me something in return, and more items in my junk mail folder isn’t going to cut it.

 

If you don’t like them, why would your users?

Hiding things that we want to find is annoying. Distracting us with pop-ups to show us those hidden things is equally annoying. When it comes to content distribution, if it warrants a modal overlay, it warrants more prominence on the page. If it’s “in the way of the content,” then it wasn’t designed properly. And for the love of fruitcake, if I don’t need to sign in to read an article, then don’t prompt me to sign in.

I’m looking at you, Thrillist. You’re the worst.

 

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JESSE BASHAMWrites about digital marketing and digital strategy for Lightning Jar.

JESSE BASHAMWrites about digital marketing and digital strategy for Lightning Jar.