We all know the feeling: Something pops up on our screens, and our eyes jump to it.
There’s a satisfaction in being nimble enough to close the pop-up on the first attempt, but it becomes an irritant when it reappears.
Our eyes are trained for movement, but snatching our attention comes at a cost. It distracts users’ attention, pulling them away from whatever task they came to your site to do. Counterintuitively, movement makes our messages both more obvious and easier to dismiss.
Notifications, guides, and hotspots are like automated emails or salt: best applied in small doses. In excess, they ruin the experience.
Too often, we judge success too narrowly. Did a user complete a specific flow, for example?
What matters is our users’ holistic experience in our product. Are they being bombarded by too many messages? Are they less receptive to each incremental notification? Do they trust our brand less?
Take a look at a few common challenges with pop-ups that are rarely addressed:
Given the challenges, it’s not surprising that the UX teams who care the most about holistic user experience use the fewest pop-ups.
A little contextual guidance is a great help in many situations. Pop-ups succeed when they alert us to something that is urgent, important, and would otherwise be missed.
Here are a few good examples where it makes sense to add a pop-up:
What do the above have in common? Very little, other than the fact that they’re all relatively extreme and rare.
What we didn’t include are some of the most common use cases for pop-ups today. Here are a few common ones that most likely don’t need a notification:
While popups are an appealing way to get attention, remember that your users’ experience should always come first. Too many pop-ups and you risk users tuning out completely, ignoring even the important ones because the notifications have become noise.
A good rule of thumb is to limit pop-ups to once per session. So, map out touchpoints along the user journey, and then prioritize ruthlessly! Limit pop-ups to critical information, like a reminder to upgrade.
By disabling excessive pop-ups and applying discipline when deploying critical ones, you’ll avoid information overload and grab users’ attention when it matters most.