My client wishes to promote an app to customers immediately after they have logged in. They wish to do this via an interstitial page.

How many times should the page be displayed

  1. every time they log in?
  2. every time but with a "don't show me again" link
  3. a fixed number of times?

I have my own opinion but would like to know what other think.

  • 2
    Hi all, thanks for the feedback. Just to let you know that I actually did persuade the business that interstitials are a bad idea. My bank uses permanent interstitials before logging me in and it hacks me off. Thanks for additional ammo...:) – Steve Malone Mar 12 '12 at 19:51
  • If the responses did you help you,you should mark one of the answers as the final solution – Mervin Mar 15 '12 at 7:26

Lets assume for the moment that the method is an interstitial page and not yet consider the pros and cons of this vs other methods of informing the user.

First, eliminate the undesirable

a) every time they log in?

Let's rule out option a) because that's just too annoying. It's too rigid and demonstrates no intelligence. This is the worst possible option.

Is 'good for the user' good for business?

b) every time but with a "don't show me again" link

While this initially seems like the best course of action - because you are putting control in the user's hands, it's putting a bit too much control in the user's hands. User's don't like ad pages that much so when given control, they see it as an opportunity to avoid them. This is a negative behaviour. Rather than promoting the benefits of the ad page content, you are focusing on the negative action of just removing it for ever. It might be good for the user, but consider whether this helps meet business goals.

Get smarter

c) a fixed number of times?

Examining this option in more detail - lets say the number of times you show the page is N. For the first N times the user logs in, the outcome is identical to option (a). Not until you get to the N+1th time does the situation change.

This means you are starting out behaving identically to the worst possible option. There is not even a hint that things will get better.

But - you can adapt this approach in smarter ways:

You could add an informational countdown: "This page will show the next N times you log in", so that you set expectations right from the beginning. This also has the potential for the user to take more attention as the number of times it will be displayed reduces. From the first time showing of "I don't want to look at this right now" to "I'll take a look before it disappears" to "This is my last chance - I'll take a look before it disappears".

So this is starting to be a bit smarter about informing the user, setting expectations and appealing to the users sense of approaching loss (the sense of scarcity).

Get even smarter

Use rules of persuasion:

The goal is to get the user to act upon the content on the interstitial page. You are asking the the user for a a favour - you want them to show interest and to potentially find out more.

To get the user to be more likely to do this favour you need to have built a relationship with the user and have done something for them first so that the user feels obliged to return the favour by showing interest in your ad page (the sense of reciprocity).

So showing interstitial pages from the beginning is not helping the cause - you're asking for favours before you've shown that you have something to give - there is no case for reciprocity yet.

So consider not showing the pages from the beginning, but waiting until a bit further into the relationship between you and the user. As a trigger, use some method of determination that says 'we have done the user a favour now - maybe the user is ready to do us a favour'. Calculating that point is entirely dependent on the services that your product provides, but shouldn't be difficult.

The favour that you do the user doesn't have to be big or obvious even - frequently users will give back more than you give them. It's a bit like when you receive personalized address labels in the post, research shows (Cialdini Psychology of persuasion 2007) that recipients are much more likely to respond to the rest of the communication. This is a cross cultural effect (Heinrich et al 2001)

For more reading, I recommend Susan Weinschenk's book Neuro Web Design which describes some of these things in more detail.

It might help you think about what the users are thinking and how you can help use that to your advantage in order to get users on your side rather than perhaps being a little bit (or even a lot) against you.

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  • 3
    +1 for considering the business perspective as well. – Marjan Venema Mar 12 '12 at 15:01
  • Honestly I wonder what CTR intersital ads have. They're uniquely annoying. – Ben Brocka Mar 13 '12 at 20:52

In my opinion there are problems with all 3 options.

Option A - Every time they log in - This will end up frustrating users, as they see it every time but are unable to disable this behaviour. Users hardly notice these things and just hit the close/skip button.

Option B - Every time with a "don't show again" link - This is less frustrating than Option A, but requires users to notice and click the "never again" link. There can be a marketing benefit here as it kinda forces them to read the promo / notice it more than they normally would.

Option C - A fixed number of times (assuming n>1) - There is no consistency here, and you could end up driving users away, as they will assume its an every time thing, which is really annoying.

If you really really must show me an interstitial page then I would go with displaying it only once, and set a cookie for that user so as to not annoy them again (trust me, you are annoying them)

The problem arises when the user already has the app that you are promoting. This makes them think you are stupid for not knowing they already have it (users are irrational)

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    I agree but in this context I wouldn't call the user irrational. They just have a certain mental model about such contexts. – Matt Mar 12 '12 at 9:16
  • How is this answer different from mine that was given earlier? – Bart Gijssens Mar 12 '12 at 9:16
  • @matt - users are NOT rational at all (neither are people in general, even thought they like to think they are) - cached copy cos it seems to be down for me: webcache.googleusercontent.com/… – darryn.ten Mar 12 '12 at 10:03
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    Just a small note: Since it's a logged in scenario I would store the preference in the user object rather than a cookie which might not be as persistant as you like it to be. – greenforest Mar 12 '12 at 13:17
  • Users are irrational, we all are, but that's a perfectly rational assumption. Sites that do crap like this just don't care about users, and the users know that. – Ben Brocka Mar 14 '12 at 16:30

My opinion is that I hate any kind of interstitial page. I believe your first objective should be to investigate if there are alternatives to this approach. How about promoting a permanent and visually attractive link on the home page?

If you have no other option, this is my personal opinion:

a) every time -> would be very very very annoying. I hate these kind of things because I believe it will be an advertisement. I don't even read what's on it and I just look for the X button.

b) every time but with a "don't show me again" option -> could be more acceptable. I would click the link the first or second time so I am not bothered with it any more. Would there then be any other way to find back that app?

c) fixed number of times -> Then your next question would be: how many times? You could also combine this with the option of having a "dont show me again" link.

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  • Since I'm also just here to learn, I am always interested in understanding why this answer is downvoted/not good. The question explicitly asks for personal opinion. – Bart Gijssens Mar 12 '12 at 9:14
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    Hi Bart - one possible reason for the downvotes is the apparent emphasis of a strong opinion - almost the point where it feels less like an opinion and more opinionated. The use of I hate; very very very; my personal opinion etc makes your answer seem too personal and less relevant to what your assessment is on behalf of the target audience generally which is I suspect what the OP was actually wanting. I suppose an 'opinion' doesn't really form a correct answer. Does that make any sense? :o) – Roger Attrill Mar 12 '12 at 11:52
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    How can you not use strong wording when its about interstitial pages :-) . – Tarscher Mar 12 '12 at 13:36

As mentioned in previous answers, interstitial pages aren't desirable to users as it's just a barrier in the way of them doing what they were trying to do, and I agree with the points of those answers.

What i would add though is that as the designer you are somewhat responsible for questioning these kind of non-functional requirements, so I would try to adjust against it, but in order to do that you need to present options.

Advertising within the normal page is something very common for any kind of call to action. For example Github adds a step-by-step beginners guide to the homepage for new users, and SE has header ribbons that are very noticeable.

The aim should be to convert as many users into app downloads, not specially to create an interstitial page, leaving you with the design task.

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In my opinion an interstitial page is never really an option. I understand why your client desire to do this, I've heard it from several of my own clients as well. The problem I believe that the client doesn't realize is how much such a page distracts and disturb the user. They think "You can dismiss the message in an second, how much harm could that be?" - but in my opinion, you disrespect your users by stealing their time, and in the long run that will come back and bite you.

As pointed out by the other answers to this question, there are drawbacks of all three of you options. The least intrusive is option c, if you HAVE TO go with any of them, I would go with that one - and preferably only show the page the very first time the user log in.

I would however try to talk the client into marketing their app in another way - putting the info in a sidebar if such exist on the page, or through a more discrete banner somewhere where it is visble, yet not disrupting to the user.

These cases are always though, you want to please the client, but at the same time you have to think about the users - because in the long run, they are the ones that will keep the client happy. So try to gather the arguments from these answers, and try talking you client out of using an interstitial page.

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Maybe you should have a look at this question on stack exchange first before you even opt in for an interstitial page

How do interstitial ads impact site UX?

When people get on a site or an app,they like to get to their content as early as possible and the presence of ads or intermediate pages only leads to frustration

Providing an Interstitial page is going to cause people to only ignore the ad and perhaps even get frustrated with your app.

An alternate option would be to provide an ad at a discrete location in the page where it would be visible enough but wouldn't obscure the whole page unless the user clicks on it

enter image description here Alternatively you can go for an approach like this where only a textual snippet of the add is shown and if the user is interested he can click on it to see the whole page

enter image description here

With regards to your choices, I would take the indirect approach suggested above your choice of a fixed number of times but can be hidden permanently if needed.

Finally I am not a big fan of showing the same ad several times since it becomes mundane and after a while, most users would start to ignore it after a while (Read about Banner Blindness)

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d) After task

Waiting until someone has completed what they came there to do isn't just about reciprocity.

It is about not getting in the way of what they came there to do, waiting for their attention instead of, as Christofer also put it, trying to steal it.

They may be a loyal customer, and you may be offering to help them even further, rather than asking for a favor, but presenting this information post-task, in a non-invasive manner may be more effective and less annoying.

It also presents an opportunity to tailor and relate the promo to the task they just completed: "Did you know that 2 out of 3 people doing what you just did download our Cowpie app?"

But, especially if you want anyone to do you a favor, you might not want to act like a socially clueless jerk. If you wouldn't do it in person, it might be a bad idea.

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How about going with a better option...

After login show a small promo at the top of the screen with an "x" for closing it and a visible timer to show how long until it closes itself.
You can do this is a separate iframe which appears before the rest of the page has finished loading.
You can add an option to enlarge to full page on click or hover.

This way:

  • You do not delay the users (waste their time)
  • You do show the promo after login and before rest of site
  • The user can close it
  • The promo can be enlarged to full page
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