How do I convince our marketing department that pop-ups are a bad idea?
September 2, 2009 11:04 AM   Subscribe

The marketing department wants to put a pop-up on our company website to ask people how they found their way there. I think this will alienate users. Can you point me towards any evidence, research, or articles that suggest this is the case?
posted by hot soup girl to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Not evidence - but . . . are you using something like Google Analytics? This should give you decent insight at the information they are looking for.
posted by jaythebull at 11:08 AM on September 2, 2009

The tremendous popularity of pop-up blockers and pop-up blocking functions in browsers.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:09 AM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: Here.
posted by cooker girl at 11:11 AM on September 2, 2009

Also, Chrome, IE, and firefox all have built in pop-up blockers. So not only would it annoy people to whom it got through - it'd probobly be a fruitless effort for the most part.

Additionally, here's an old quote from a nytimes article

IVillage said a survey of its readers in March indicated that "92.5 percent of iVillage women found pop-up advertising to be the most frustrating feature of the Web."

posted by jourman2 at 11:14 AM on September 2, 2009

Rule #1: Never listen to marketing. Ever.
Rule #2: See rule #1.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:20 AM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

Ask them to think about what they do when they see pop ups on a site. Then ask them what they think the users will do.

If they still want the pop ups find someone over their head who you can convince that it's a stupid idea.

And show them this thread.
posted by theichibun at 11:22 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why not suggest that they do it in-page (i.e. in a normal content area such as a sidebar) instead? That way you irritate people less, avoid popup blockers, and probably get a better set of responses.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:24 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

See the "8 Usability Check-Points You Should Be Aware Of" subsection of Smashing's 10 Usability Nightmares You Should Be Aware Of. And the first parts of this article about usability (making sure the user has control over their browsing). Like jaythebull said, GA can do this well and not pester the user. It's also sort of re-inventing the wheel to track visitors with a custom form -- explain to the department that many years of best-practices accumulated in user-tracking and they should investigate those before the ridiculous and brute-force impulse to make the user tell them directly. Good luck.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:30 AM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pop ups that require an extra mouse click to dismiss *piss me off royally* as a web user (if they even get by my pop-up blocker). I definitely feel a moment of annoyance at the company whose website does that to me.

Anyway, this is why God invented referrer logs and cookies.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:39 AM on September 2, 2009

Anyway, this is why God invented referrer logs and cookies.

Unfortunately, things like newspapers, teve ads, and friends don't seem to ever set the Referer field to anything useful.
posted by effbot at 11:54 AM on September 2, 2009

Every morning for a week or two, stand outside their office door and block their entrance. If they try to go around you, shuffle each way a few times (doing the dance) until they are irritated at not being allowed timely entry to their office. If they ask you why you're being an ass, say nothing and walk away.

At the end of the first week, hold up an enlarged printout of the pop up survey they want to put on the front page. Don't move until they've agreed to answer some questions like, "What kind of car did you drive to work today?" "Do you like to drink coffee in the morning?" "Do you think blue is better than green?"

If for some reason they still don't get it, quit your job and find another because nobody should have to work with fools like these.
posted by at 12:07 PM on September 2, 2009 [13 favorites]

Point out to them that they will miss all the answers from users with pop-up blockers activated.

Additionally, Google +"pop-ups" +"abandon rate".

Contrary to popular Web worker belief, marketing does not automatically equal imbecile. However, a lot of old-school marketing people, or people who learned from old-school people, don't understand user behavior, and so their gut instincts can be off. Address them from a place of respect, and you'll have a better chance at influencing them.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:24 PM on September 2, 2009

Install analytics.

Have two homepages, one with the pop up and one without. Split up the traffic evenly for each.

At the end of a week period, see how the bounce rates differ.

Publish your findings so everyone else has even more evidence ;)
posted by shownomercy at 12:45 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

The 65 Most Annoying things about the Web Today

See the intrusive advertising section.
posted by netbros at 12:52 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, things like newspapers, teve ads, and friends don't seem to ever set the Referer field to anything useful.

Simple solution: custom landing pages + google analytics!
ie: Newspaper ad in the Times directs client to a special deal at:

Also I second shownomercy: Perform 1 week of split testing, they will find you are right, marketing department weeps in shame.
posted by Merlin144 at 1:04 PM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: PS: Google Website Optimizer is a great tool for split testing on the cheap/easy.
posted by Merlin144 at 1:05 PM on September 2, 2009

Firstly, are they fully aware of the stats already available? Has someone taken them through whatever reports you have and explained them?

Obviously referrer stats will give decent data for most visits, so you could make the survey only appear in the absence of a referrer, hugely reducing the overall annoyance factor. There's no logical reason to ask someone who's come from a Google search for "acme widgets" how they found the site.

Instead of bodging in something specifically for this request, how about implementing a 'breaking news' type feature that'll let you insert a small amount of content in a bar across the top of the page? It'd have a close button, configurable colours, and could be set up to only appear once, or once per visit, or always. That way you're building something reusable and making the task more interesting.

Unfortunately, marketing depts tend to have an unquenchable thirst for 'data capture', yet rarely do any decent analysis with such data once they get it. In this case, you need to explain that there are numerous ways of collecting referral data, and if they can help you to understand their aims then you can recommend the best solution based on your knowledge and experience.

At the risk of insulting a few people, I have to say that including something 'shiny' in your alternative option (e.g. the alert bar will slide out smoothly when the page loads, and fade away when dismissed. Look at the pretty jQuery effects!) will almost certainly help it get past a marketing dept.
posted by malevolent at 1:08 PM on September 2, 2009

I would be tempted to put a popup in the company intranet home page, with a little note saying that complaints should be sent to marketing.

Get marketing's buy-in by telling them that you think it's a great idea, and that you've developed a prototype to try locally first. Just so they can refine the wording etc.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

Additionally, if people /do/ click on the popups, they'll generally click on one at random just to get it out the way .. so even if they do implement it it's a poor way to find our this information.
posted by june made him a gemini at 1:50 PM on September 2, 2009

Do this: suggest that popups are fine, except that the newer, better browsers block them automatically, and others allow people to run popup blockers, so the only surveys that might get popped up are going to be from people who run old software and don't like change -- hopefully not a representative sample of your true audience! Then, pitch a JS-driven addition to your page (like the injection of a bar across the top, pushing the rest of the content down, or a block within the content) asking for that feedback.
posted by davejay at 4:47 PM on September 2, 2009

Such anti-marketing people here.

I think the key to doing this is a "win-win." The "win-win" I'd propose is:

1) Analytics and split testing. Yes, even Google does it. You should already be doing it. If it tanks after a few days, then you'll know it and can reset the parameters.
2) Confirm what the test parameters are. How many people do we pop up? What interval? What rate (1 per 24 hours, etc)? What creative? Make the marketing guys think, and do some work. :-) Don't subject too much of your traffic on a daily basis to the new tests, if it's an established website.
3) What is the "value" that you are providing to the user in exchange for the information? Make the offer compelling enough, and the pop up isn't so bad.
posted by wflanagan at 6:56 PM on September 2, 2009

Vince Flanders (of Web Pages that Suck fame) suggests that asking your users for their opinion is fine, but do it in a way that won't annoy the hall out of them. Not knowing what exactly you do makes it hard to say how to do this. Can you offer a small discount? Something extra with their order? A chance to win a dream date with your CEO? In short wflanagan's #3.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:31 PM on September 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!
posted by hot soup girl at 3:20 PM on September 4, 2009

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