Andy Beaumont on the rise of modal windows, the new pop-ups:

What we’re witnessing here is the first wave of the second world pop-up war. Those of us who lived through the first one can only describe the horrors to our disbelieving children. This time though, the pop-ups are winning because we don’t yet have the tools to fight back. The web has seemingly evolved into something that actively antagonises people — why would anyone in their right mind hide the content that visitors are there to see?

Beaumont goes on to show how management-beloved “analytics” can only show part of the story of modal windows:

Analytics will tell you that you got more “conversions”. Analytics will show you rising graphs and bigger numbers. You will show these to your boss or your client. They will falsely conclude that people love these modal overlays.

But they don’t. Nobody likes them. Conversions are not people. If you want the whole story here you should also be sat in a room testing this modal overlay with real people. Ask them questions:

  • “Do you like that overlay asking you to sign up for the newsletter?”
  • “Do you understand what will happen if you do sign up for it?”
  • “Do you know that there is content behind it?”
  • “Do you know how to close it to get to the content?”.

It’s extremely unlikely that they like it. It’s fairly likely that they do know there is content behind it. And it is also fairly likely that they don’t know how to close it.

As I’ve said before, building a brand means giving people what they want—high-quality content that’s easily accessible. Trying to build a brand using this kind of digital arm twisting will be perceived by users for what it is, the online equivalent of a a used car salesman giving you the hard sell.

So instead of pursuing conversions, build trust. It’s the foundation of every successful website.