If you’re going to use a popup, at least don’t do this!


Ever heard this?

“I clicked the link saw this huge pop up from hell…”

“It stopped me cold…”

“I'm not signing up, not clicking on anything, etc. because I have no freaking idea what will happen next…”

“How do I know I'm not going to be billed for all this stuff?”

These are the things I hear when people approach me and ask about popups.

But it's good to use a popup, right?

You know the scenario – you visit a site, and within seconds up pops an almost full screen layer with an image, maybe video, and an offer of some sort – all with a big button to sign up for something.

The research says popups are relatively successful. Some sites suggest that the click-thru rate jumps from .3% to over 15%. That's a pretty fantastic upside for a little annoyance.

In fact, you might have seen this article last year, highlighting the benefits (http://www.intuit.com/website-building-software/blog/2012/02/should-you-use-pop-up-banners-on-your-site/) of using popups.

Sometimes it's hard to know…

With all that research, it can feel pretty hard to suggest not using them. But here's the thing. It can take some serious work to figure out if people who are leaving your site are leaving because of a popup or not.

And it can be difficult to know if people are signing up because it popped up, or because the sign up was finally in a clean and clear place to take action. I know when I changed my sign up to the only orange box in my sidebar, my signups went up (without a popup).

But if you are going to use a popup, don't make this mistake!

I know. I'm not here to force you to do one thing or another. I'm only here to educate. So let me make this one suggestion to help you if you do decide to use a popup on your site.

So here's my advice. Don't pop up your popup right away. Give people a chance to hang around your site. Recently I've started checking out Woopra to see how people maneuver around my site.  This would help me know how long to wait before popping up a popup.

Why do I say this? Because a popup that appears too quickly says you want, want, want. Instead, you should give first. Let people engage and receive from your content and then two things will happen.

  1. They'll know if they like your content and want more
  2. They'll be more willing to click the button and sign up for something

When you make the mistake of jumping straight to the “ask,” you stand the chance of killing your potential relationship with that first time guest. You wouldn't do that in real life, so why do it on your site?

Now, I'm not saying I have the last word. If I'm missing something, share it with me in the comments.