My situation is this: I've got an existing website and email newsletter. I've been told that the newsletter signup on the site isn't prominent enough and to implement a modal popup that says something like "If you're enjoying this site, please subscribe to the newsletter!"

If you're already a subscriber, you don't need to see it and it would be annoying, especially every time you navigate to a page. But I don't know that about you, because I only know the email addresses of the subscribers, and not that of any anonymous web visitor.

I'm thinking I could show this popup but allow someone to say "I've already subscribed" or "Not now, thanks", and set a cookie so that, on that machine and browser, at least, they wouldn't be nagged again. But I'm not sure if this is a good work flow for existing subscribers, and maybe it's too easy to dismiss for non-subscribers.

What's a good UX design pattern for this situation?

  • When Larry Page showcased early prototypes of Google's front-page back in 1998, he was told it looked "too empty". Good thing he didn't listen. If your intent is to annoy users and ignore a large body of evidence why such strategy fails, make sure you keep track of conversion rates (before/after or A/B). To make non-subscribers subscribe make the content worth subscribing to - make users WANT to subscribe. – Izhaki Feb 27 '18 at 0:02
  • Okay, but there are plenty of people who might subscribe if the box was placed right in their face, but not if they had to look for it. I assume this works or we wouldn't see so much of it online. Where would you suggest placing the subscription form? – Joshua Frank Feb 27 '18 at 17:52
  • There's a lot of stuff online that is bad UX. Users are typically in one of two modes: task-completion or exploratory. When in the former they will dismiss anything preventing them reaching their goal. When in the former - how likely a popup to serve them something that satisfies exploration? – Izhaki Feb 27 '18 at 18:02
  • My visitors are probably mostly exploring, so is a popup okay for them? – Joshua Frank Feb 27 '18 at 20:23
  • nngroup.com/articles/shaming-users – Izhaki Feb 27 '18 at 21:39

Yes, using a cookie to remember is a good idea. It is also a good idea to remember the "no thanks" for a few hours. Maybe only offer the subscription after a few minutes navigating, something: "it appears you are enjoying our content... Left your email to receive a weekly newsletter about our content. You can also make the form to appear in a place that does not block the content or prevent navigation. Mike's idea of tagging the newsletter urls to recognize them is also very good to minimize the offering it to the registered users.

You should monitor how bad is this. Put the cookie and measure the percentage of the users that left your site too fast. Wait a week, implement the nagging form and measure it again. That way you will know how inconvenient that nagging really is. Also keep attention on unsubscription requests.

If you want to be extra careful, enable it for specific ip ranges first to test it with a small public. But that may be an overkill.


You use cookies for this as you already described. It is impossible to know whether a user is subscribed already if they go into the site 'fresh'. A 'not now, thanks' option should always be provided alongside the close-icon.

One way to counter people homing in on that close or 'no thanks' button, is to show the modal at the correct times, with immediate value content. Don’t just say “Please subscribe to our Newsletter”. Include something that shows value. Tell visitors that by subscribing, they’ll receive great content, deals, savings or other worthwhile content. They need a valuable answer to "What's in it for me?". Another possibility that ties into this principle, is to offer exclusive content. For example, if you offer whitepapers on your website, include a header in your modal with something like “Get access to exclusive whitepapers only available to subscribers.”

Something we do often is to also show how many subscribers you already have on the email listing. If the number is substantial, it'll entice other people to hop on the email train too.


First of all such intrusive nagging to subscribe to a newsletter may be annoying to many, so think on how to lure those unsubscribed users to subscribe and not drive them away from your website.

I see a couple of solutions, all of them with certain pros and cons.

  1. Make the users register and log in on your website and nag only guests for subscribing to the newsletter.

    • pros:
      • carefully directed target
      • allows for more users profiling, special offers, etc.
    • cons:
      • forces users to register and log in, otherwise they see the nag message while they are already subscribed
      • forces you to manage user passwords (security) and tracing whether the user is already logged in
  2. While sending the newsletter, the links to the articles can contain the origin indication. Once your website is visited from the newsletter, a cookie is set on the viewers machine indicating that they are already subscribed, hence no nag message.

    • pros:
      • relative easy to implement
      • does not require password storage
      • almost transparent to users
      • allows profiling (newsletter links can also contain HASHED email address of the subscriber)
    • cons:
      • upon cookie wipe the nag message returns
      • for users that NEVER click the links in their emails nag message is permanent (no chance to set the cookie)

Whatever solution you chose, think about what is greater evil for you:

  • a user that is not subscribe and does not see the nag message and won't ever subscribe


  • a user that is subscribed, sees the nag message (for various reasons), gets annoyed and walks away from your website forever.

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