If you’ve ever used the internet, clicked on a link for a product, or visited a website, it’s likely you’ve experienced the annoyance of pop-ups appearing on your screen while trying to access your desired content.
These pesky marketing ploys are seemingly everywhere, creating ubiquitous barricades to the online objective you’re trying to accomplish, whether by phone or laptop. Since it’s universally agreed these intrusions are irritating and unpopular, why then do marketers continue to use them?
Jason Buhle, Director of UX Strategy at AnswerLab, says developers feel they are making tradeoffs. While some users are annoyed, the method is still generating conversions, which achieves the overall goal. The problem with this thinking according to Buhle, is that it’s “based on short-term metrics,” and “not long-term results and actual user sentiment analysis.”
A particularly obnoxious trait of the pop-up has become known as “confirm shaming.” This is when you’re forced to click a button to get out of the pop-up by declaring “I don’t want to save money” or “I would rather pay full price.” Some notices have even begun to deploy manipulative tactics such as a prompt to “accept” without making privacy choices. Busy consumers who want to get on with their task often click just to be done with it and move on.
Another reason pop-ups are still around is clients often demand them, says Alex Khmelevsky, head of UX at Clay, a San Francisco design and branding firm that serves clients like Google, UPS, and Coca Cola. Though Khmelevsky himself admits he believes pop-ups are not a good overall practice, “Clients get the final say.” His designers try to suggest minor adjustments to make them more information based and less intrusive where possible.
Both experts agreed one of the prevailing reasons pop-ups are still incorporated into marketing practices is one of the least compelling reasons of all – because everyone else is using them. Designers are “turning to what others are using for guidance” rather than stopping to consider the pros and cons of the method itself, or looking to data to direct their course.
Even the inventor of the pop-up himself, Ethan Zuckerman, says he didn’t know what he was bringing into the world when he wrote the code for the first pop-up ad over 20 years ago. In an effort to disassociate a brand from a page where an ad might appear, while targeting potential desirable content to users, “we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit,” Zuckerman said in 2014.
The rest is online advertising history. What will the future be for the practice of incorporating pop-ups in digital advertising strategies? Read more here.