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Just Because it Works Doesn’t Always Mean You Should Do It


My current internet bête noire are those highly interruptive splash pages and subscription pop-ups that seem to blight too many publisher sites these days. Some notable publishers (like Forbes and HBR) insist on greeting every user with an overbearing commercial splash page like a big UX smack in the face. Others interrupt the browsing experience with a large unavoidable pop-up imploring you to subscribe to their newsletter or download their latest white paper. Ironically (for me at least), this latter format seems to be especially popular with specialist social media, online and content marketing sites.

Why do they do it? The simple answer (and the defense that is often raised in support of such tactics) is that it works. Click through and acquisition rates on more interuptive formats are higher. But does that make it right? Andy Beaumont, creator of the Tab Closed; Didn’t Read Tumblr, thinks that "what we’re witnessing here is the first wave of the second world pop-up war". The first world pop-up war played out over a decade ago. I was at the time part of a team that was running a number of large websites and, under pressure for revenues, we allowed commercial pop-ups across the sites. Many others did the same and pop-ups rapidly became a ubiquitous and ubiquitously unpopular device. The lesson back then was that ruthlessly following analytics does not always lead to doing what's best. I hope we haven't forgotten that. The worst thing about a reliance on sub-optimal tactics is that it can be a hindrance to finding better ways to achieve your goals.

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