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Websites that Work: Pop Ups – a reward for the risk?

I have a best friend who regards herself as the Best Prankster in the World. Sharing a flat with her back in the day was a laugh a minute. Well, when my nerves could handle it, that is. Her most memorable act of mirth was sending me a lovely video of rolling hills, a car driving along a winding road, peaceful music playing – and then WHAM! Out of nowhere, a hideous face pops out from the bottom of the screen, emitting an ear-splitting shriek.

It’s a good thing I have a strong heart. Or so I tell myself.

Let’s talk about another (littler) horror that also leaps out from nowhere, and although it might not frighten the living daylights out of you, it can be alarmingly annoying – pop ups.

What are pop ups?

When you visit a website, which then loads – but then a form, notice or message appears and blocks the view of the page – that’s a pop-up. They’re used mostly to capture leads, increase sales or even conduct surveys. They can also be used to let a visitor know of certain legal notices around viewing a website, or permission for cookies (websites work with cookies, yes, if you don’t know what that’s about, email me). So, why use them? Is the risk worth the reward? Well…

The Risks of pop ups

Let’s be honest, they’re a bit like flies you need to wave off. And they block the view of the real stuff you want to read or see. And the problem is, if they’re intrusive to such a degree that they cause people to click away from your website, they’re going to reduce your chance of being well ranked in a Google search.

The Rewards of pop ups

But the thing is, they work. That’s why they get used. Case studies have shown how effective they are in increasing leads. It may be because they absolutely demand attention – it’s hard to ignore a notice obscuring website content, you’re compelled to LOOK at it and do something, even if only to click on the X to get rid of it. They’re also usually focused on one call to action, which can be helpful in focusing your visitors away from distractions into doing the ONE thing you’d like them to do. But I do think you need to use them wisely.

Guidelines for using pop ups

  • Don’t use them on mobile. Screen size is a big issue here, mobile phones have small screens. The exceptions here would be your cookie notifications or legal requirements.
  • Make them easy to close. Make that X big enough…
  • Use with care, you don’t need them everywhere.
  • Always make sure they offer something of benefit to your target audience.
  • Make them relevant to page content.

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