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Do You Know Modals?

Posted on 10.02.2015

To drive engagement - that's the website's reason for being. And one of the ways that today's Web designers do that is by using modals.

Modals (also known by their more nefarious name pop-ups) are essentially windows that are used to display call-to-action messages. Those messages might be to solicit subscribers for an email newsletters, provide encouragement to download content, or simply inform the user/visitor about a new product, service or feature that has been released. They are, obviously, also used for the purpose of advertising (which is one of the reasons they often get a bad wrap in digital design circles).

Whether designers like it or not, one thing is clear - they are used regularly on websites for one reason - they work. While they can be annoying, there is some best practice associated with their use. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when deploying a pop-up, or modal, on your own website.

+ Delay The Modal: If you want to lose the confidence of site visitors, show them the modal immediately upon entry. Since you need their trust, however, it's best to delay the modal for few moments until they have seen some of what they initially came for. Consider either waiting for a period of 10 or 15 seconds or showing the modal only when the user indicates they are leaving your website (like clicking the browser's back button).

+ Make The Exit Easy: Popups that are difficult to close are a real digital pain for users. A better practice is to clearly emphasize the close (X) button in the modal as well as include a "close" or "no thanks" option within the window itself. While it may result in fewer conversions, happier visitors will result, visitors that may ultimately interact with the modal when the time is right.

+ Less is More: Much has been written on the use of calls to action, and more than anywhere, this applies to the modal. Clear, concise and direct messages will always work better than popups with too much information. Depending on your audience, image-based popups might outperform text-based messages; this is most definitely a "test-able" moment.

+ Ask for Information: Studies have shown time and again that a clear call to action coupled with a direct request for interaction/engagement routinely outperform the opposite. One of the most common practices today, for example, includes the presentation of a form field.

+ Limit Exposure: Being presented with a modal/popup on each and every page can get annoying (and quickly) for users. A better approach is to show the window a limited number of times in a certain time frame. For example, show the modal upon the first visit, and then limit its display so it won't show for three days; or cap the number of times a popup is seen over a set period of time.


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