An image of a green fedora hat, which serves as the logo for this site.Gordy's Discourse

Why do we still have pop-ups?

Imagine if you walked into a shop and the first thing you were confronted with was a sales rep with a placard asking if you wanted to sign up for their catalogue. Said sales rep blocks your path into the shop until you either say yes or no to them.

Or perhaps they do it when you're trying to leave the shop instead.

This is the real world equivalent of pop-ups on websites; the ones that ask you to sign up to their newsletter or whatever.

I've read that pop-ups first appeared on Tripod.com in the late 1990s and that the developer apologised for the intrusive nuisance they've become. And so he should.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why we still have pop-ups. I cannot imagine many people say: "Brilliant, I love this interruption to my activities. I wanted nothing more than to be prevented from reading or exiting this site by this fantastic opportunity to sign up to a newsletter."

I don't believe anybody likes pop-ups. Well, site owners might like the idea of them on their own site, but I bet they get as irritated as the rest of us with them on other sites.

I can see why they might have worked when they were a new thing. The sheer novelty of them might have enticed a few people, but now they're just an irritant we have somehow become conditioned to.

Nothing is guaranteed to make me leave a website faster than when it performs an intrusive action. Pop-ups are a common one but things like video that auto-plays is another.

I understand why site owners want people to sign up to newsletters of course, and I don't object to that, but a prominent, static sidebar link would be preferable.

Having said all that, I suspect I must be wrong. There must be stats that show a pop-up subscribes more people to a newsletter than a static link. There must be A/B testing that proves this somewhere. Surely?

That still doesn't make it right, though. I could convert more people to obedience by having them roundly beaten on a regular basis, but I'd be wrong to do so.

I simply don't get it. All logic would tell me that hindering a person's progress on the World Wide Web would be bad for business.

Perhaps I'm unusual in hating them so much. Perhaps my assumptions are wrong and other people do really like them. But if there's one thing I'd get rid of in today's web technology, it would be the ability for a website to open another window, be that a pop-up, pop-under, video or just another web page in a new tab.