You have almost certainly realised this for ages – but at long last we now have scientific proof that pop-ups do not work. Researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology have conducted a series of tests which confirm that those annoying marketing messages that pop-up in your face on many websites are actually a complete waste of time.
The study found that people took as little as 200ms to decide to get rid of the pop-up and that there was an average of just over three seconds to go from the “first fixation” to the mouse click closing the pop-up. What this means is that from the start of the pop-up appearing on screen to the time taken to hit the close box was around three seconds – clearly sometimes shorter than the time it takes to populate the pop-up with text and images. People actually looked at the pop-ups for between 1.3 and 1.5 seconds.
In addition to eye-tracking metrics, the researchers also looked at mood indicators of the study participants. In psychological terms mood is called “affect” and in all cases the pop-ups produced a reduction in affect. In other words, the pop-ups not only annoyed people, it gave them a negative mood.
So, what this study found was that pop-ups annoyed ALL the participants and made them feel negative. At the same time, they only looked at the pop-ups for around a second. Quick quiz – does putting your customers in a bad mood and only engaging them for a single second sound like a good ploy to you…?
However, it is not all bad for the pop-up kings, this study suggests. What the research found was that the annoyance was based on being interrupted. You just start reading a page and suddenly a pop-up appears, interrupting your concentration. So, if you can arrange pop-ups that do not interrupt, you could be on to a winner.
The researchers suggest that the pop-ups could work if they appeared when the web page visitor is not actively engaged in something. So, signals to switch on the pop-up might be when scrolling and mouse movements cease – indicating lack of user activity and thereby meaning they will not be annoyed by the subsequent pop-up.
Maybe that is a possibility and no doubt some software developer is producing the “latest thing” to make pop-ups less annoying and less of an interruption.
Alternatively, you could avoid falling for another “software solution” and simply concentrate on developing relationships with the people using your website. In the real world you would not, in a retail shop for instance, rush in front of your customers and say “Hey have you thought of this special offer?”. You would be much more subtle. Pop-ups are as subtle as a flying sledgehammer and should be avoided like a bubonic rat. Internet marketers, however, will tell you a different story. They will be adamant that much of their business comes from pop-ups. Yes, that could well be true. But just ask these so-called marketing experts about the relationship they have with their customers or whether they have to keep on getting new customers because the old ones depart. If you want reliable, consistent and solid business you need loyal customers who relate to you well. Pop-ups are not in that league and at long last we now have the proof we have always wanted that they are a waste of time. QED m’lord.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+