5 Reasons I Hate Pop-Up Newsletter Sign-Up Boxes


Too many times lately I come to what I am told is a great UX blog––or let's face it; I'm really on a clothing site––and BAM!  Before any interaction happens, one of these pop-up boxes asking for my email to sign up to a newsletter covers my browser screen.

Conversion optimization studies have revealed these pop-up boxes, also known as modals or lightboxes, can result in higher conversions.  I am going to take an unchacteristic stance and say this: Screw the numbers.  I bet any decent usability test that surveyed users and asked about the experience––the emotional effect––of seeing these would show a different approach.

Why I Hate These Demon Boxes

  1. Poor timing.  Without even a chance to see what the site has to offer, I am asked to get a daily intrusion into my inbox with their newsletter. 
  2. HIdden "Close" button.  Logically, I should be able to find a close button in the top right or because I'm a power user and know these things, I should be able to push ESC or click the overlay area to close it.  Nope!  Look for the tiny, light gray "close" that doesn't look like an interactive element.
  3. No logic.  Okay, damn you, I signed up for your newsletter.  So why is it that every time I go to your site, I have to see this silly box?  Shouldn't there be some sort of magic code that know I'm a returning visitor that did your damn conversion?
  4. Not mobile-friendly.  Not only am I pinching and scrolling to see your site on my phone, but now I have to search around on my viewport for a way to get out of this hell and just see the content I came to see.
  5. Your conversion is useless.  Okay, I've liked you on Facebook or I've signed up for your newsletter but I'm un-liking and un-subscribing almost immediately because you have content that isn't fresh or interesting. 

Some Advice if You Insist on Using a Newsletter Modal

Look beyond the quantitive results of modal boxes and use logic and common sense before you decide to be the Rosemary to this demon spawn.

  • Do set up some intense logic code that will only show these if the user is engaged and hasn't already done the conversion.
  • Do include a "Don't show me this anymore" option for those that are repeat users but not ready to convert.
  • Don't use it as a splash page.  If you literally say "Welcome" anywhere on your homepage, you need to hire a copywriter.
  • Do create modals that are mobile-optimized, either sizing to the viewport, appearing as a notification bar above the content, or just going away entirely on the smaller devices.