Pop-up windows and why you should not use them

Being a webmaster is staying on top of logistics, design ethics and functionality. It is rather disgruntling to see how many webmasters and do-it-yourself website builders still use pop-up windows for their most vital visitor interaction: The contact window in a pop-up. Haven't they heard of Pop-up blockers in ALL browsers?

Pop-up blockers are still implemented

Why do so many website still use pop-ups?

One of the many tasks of a webmaster is to make sure that a website provides the best possible exposure and highest conversion rate for visitors and thus potential customers that use offers or “more information” links on their site.

Lately I have been doing some checking with SearchAmelia advertisers and their websites and noticed a very disturbing trend that should have been abolished a long time ago by their webmasters: Pop-up windows.

Why Pop-up windows are bad practice on websites!

The pop-up window and link was created as an invention by the Pornography Industry and became quickly one of the greatest nuisances to websurfers and visitors of well respected websites that deployed the use of Pop-up windows.

The nuisance was caused by how one pop-up window could set-off a “chain reaction” of hundreds of pop-ups. In the beginning the pop up was almost exclusively used by the porn industry’s websites, but soon also reputable sites fell victim to the practice forced upon them by their webmasters or as a result of the site’s owners wishes.

Pop-up windows can be designed as small as one pixel by one pixel or as large as the outer borders of your computer screen. They can actually even be set to negative values so that the frame with the “close button” of the pop-up window is outside your mouse’s reach and requires you to drag the window into view. However just the “click to drag” could trigger a whole set of new pop-ups to appear and at some point, as they keep pouring onto your screen, the only way to close them was through hitting the power off button or even unplug the power supply to your computer. Hugely irritating.

As a counter measure the browsers Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Opera and all other browsers that entered the market came with the option to turn off the trigger of Pop-up windows. This even evolved to the point that the browsers (the program that lets you surf the net) came with the “default” setting that pop-ups were blocked, simply because many people did not research their browser’s capabilities, but  instead kept complaining about these pop-ups.

Based on these built-in capabilities of blocking pop-ups, the “industry” developed the “pop-under” window, an even “sneakier” way of grabbing the users’ attention, when surprisingly by closing the regular browser window(s) a set of windows would appear and the user has no idea where they came from.

This nuisance kept on growing like a wildfire until even lawmakers became involved in the process of banning pop-up windows, and even though this never materialized, it triggered the technology that almost all browsers today have excellent pop-up and pop-under blockers installed and turned on by default.

Then why do so many websites still use pop-ups?

Well, a lot of them got stuck in the previous century which can only be blamed on either the “do-it-yourself” website builders or the use of free “dinky toy” do-it-yourself programs. Of course there are also still webmasters that have no common sense when advising their clients how to best grab the attention of their visitors and create interaction with the business.

Let me give you some insight how bad pop-up windows really are.

79% of all websurfers (potential visitors) have their pop-up blocker activated. Meaning that 79% of the traffic to websites that make use of pop-up windows legitimately such as “get more Info” or “Contact Me” or even “order forms” and “Shopping Carts” are NEVER seen by the people that WISH to contact you or place an online order. The use of Pop-up windows for the most VITAL step in the process of selling online, will effectively turn 79% of all contacts away from your website. Gone, off to the competition.

Why do I say “gone to the competition”?

The people that intended to either place an order or learn more about your product or service still are in “NEED” of that information. If your competition does NOT use POP-UP windows to capture the contact, they are most likely to get the traffic and the sale, even if you’re product is better and less expensive.

The reason is that the Pop-up window when blocked will notify the surfer that the website attempted to force open a pop-up and the visitor to your site is given the opportunity to either “temporarily allow” the pop-up to show, or “disallow/prevent” the pop-up from opening.

Well that’s good news isn’t it.

No it is not, because the use of older “modern and non-modern” browsers such as IE 6 and early versions of IE7, older versions of Firefox, Safari, Netscape and Opera is still wide spread and these browsers do not display the Message that a pop-up attempted to “open” on their computer. They simply do NOTHING and therefore the visitor thinks your website is not functioning and moves on.

Secondly and even more important is, that people have become so “Security Insecure” that some 87% of them will deny the pop-up (even temporarily) to show.

Again: Bye-bye potential customer!

The use of POP-UP windows is simply BAD practice and what’s more, there are at least 4 different ways to have beautiful pop-ups that are NOT blocked by browsers, that have pop-up blockers turned on.

How can webmasters design a POP-UP that functions?

  1. By using “iFrames” or “in frame technology”. The iFrame technology is the least preferred method since search engines cannot read them although for the purpose of “contact”, “more information” and “shopping cart” which should have a “nofollow” search engine attribute (Search Engines are instructed not to follow the link) they work very well.
  2. By having the pop-up open in a new “blank” window (this is the least elegant way but it does the trick without scaring the visitor away)
  3. By using designated navigational windows such as the “Contact Me” while using “Intelligent Forms”. A very robust and secure way but it will take the visitor away from the visited page which is sometimes not intended such as with “shopping cart – more than one item purchase technology”.
  4. By designing “Pop-In” windows using Javascript. The most preferred way of using interactive communication with your website visitors since only a handful “die-hard paranoid” users have JavaScript turned off (2%).

Bottom line…

If your website has pop-up windows, have your pop-up windows redesigned to use any of the above alternatives since you are missing out on about 85% of all traffic to your  website. Ask yourself the question what purpose your website has and you come to a stunning conclusion: It is supposed to sell more and to people that are looking from far away but also close by, yet you cut them off before they even can ask a question, buy the product or get in touch with you.

Now isn’t that a waste of money, time, and opportunities?

Oh, before I forget, don’t make the mistake in thinking that your visitors will search for the phone number on your website to call you! They won’t! No, the websurfers have been spoiled by instant gratification and won’t go back to old habits by picking up the phone while it takes only a “one calorie” click to go to your competition.

If you wish the SearchAmelia Team to provide you a “no holes barred” honest website review -free of charge- you can contact us using the following (correct) form.

Contact Us for a Free Website Evaluation


  1. KenS

    I may have missed it in this article but a hacker may have added malicious code that interprets any click anywhere on the pop-up as a “yes”. The danger being you have inadvertently OK'd a trojan or worse (read as virus) to get through any defenses you have installed such as AVG or MS Security Essentials.
    The stronger Anti-Virus makers will provide an addition warning at this point.
    The “free” Anti-Virus” applications. Keep me in business.

  2. tommylee

    you are right Ken. I did not mention this in the article, but yes a person with bad intentions can hide inside a pop-up a Trojan, and spyware and will interpret a click as an approval to download. There are actually even more ways to exploit the pop-ups maliciously and I think that warrants another story in the near future.

  3. ChelseaF

    What was your source to get the 79% pop-up blocker stat?

  4. Ameliaprivateeye

    I’m sorry Chelsea, the author of that article passed away last summer and we miss our dear friend who was full of information, wisdom and sources.

  5. Andrew S Hat

    How do I block pop ins on mobile? they are impossible to close. If I disable javascript many websites don’t work at all. All I can do is close any website that displays a popup. Or try and read the dimmed text behind it.

  6. ameliaprivateeye

    I “googled” your question and tons of answers pop-up… google it depending on which phone you have; it is different for Android or iphones

  7. arild eleflodt

    even this website have popup ads

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