Many sites open a popup asking to register, or to fill in a survey, when they "detect" the user is leaving the website:

  1. I think some are showing the popup after a certain amount of time, like 15-30 seconds.
  2. Others seems to link the popup with mouse moving outside of the browser rendering area.
  3. Then there's the very annoying onbeforeunload event.

What is better in terms of user experience? Is there any study on that? Anyone have some personal experience to share?

Why I am asking

On a e-comerce website I manage, I have a blog section which is very much focused on answering common problems, explain product features,etc. The SEO traffic is increasing and it's not bad, but the bounce rate of those pages is very high (78%). The average time spent on the page is 90 seconds, which is more or less the time required to read the average article. My conclusion is those visitors found the content useful, but they just left after reading it. To those visitors, I would like to ask them in a popup to subscribe to the newsletter, or to receive a coupon with a discount, or a short survey to understand their needs better.

But I would like to do this in the least annoying way. What is the best practice?

  • 1
    You have quite a range of objectives here: subscribing to a newsletter has very different aims from doing a survey. What's the main objective for trying to capture their interest ?
    – PhillipW
    Nov 15, 2016 at 18:55

3 Answers 3


Imagine you were shopping and whenever you tried to leave a store, one of the sales people blocked your way until you had told them that you weren't interested in what the store had to offer and were sure that you wanted to leave.

That is the real world equivalent of popping anything up when a user tries to leave a site. The one exception is if the person has been creating content and is leaving without saving the content - that is useful. Anything else is really just a dark pattern and should be illegal in my opinion.

If you want to offer a newsletter signup, then you need to work on communicating through your copywriting and design that the newsletter is something desirable to sign up for, and placing the signup in a prominent enough place to get attention. There is no "best" solution for this, as it depends on many factors.


Consider adding a callout panel on the top of the page, asking users to fill a survey about how they enjoy your website.

All three options you suggested would be annoying and discourage the user from actually giving you any feedback.

  • 1
    Hi megapctr, welcome to UX.SE. While others might not disagree with your opinion, can you point to any research or studies that show the proposed solutions are truly limiting to user engagement? Feb 1, 2015 at 16:55
  • No I can't. It just feels natural to me that anything happening on a webpage without my direct intent (I'm talking specifically about dialogs appearing from nowhere, alert boxes popping up) is annoying. I often close such dialogs without paying much attention to what they're asking me to do.
    – megapctr
    Feb 1, 2015 at 21:04

I feel that what you're asking is a best practise for a UX Dark Pattern. With someone leaving the site, we should not be annoying them to register to a newsletter. It can leave a very bad impression on your users, especially the ones who did not find the site helpful. Discounts, Surveys and Newsletter can all be part of the page as a bonus.

With that said, I think there may be some solutions. I think your options 2 is likely the best one with some changes.

Let's say the user moved into the site, and did not find what they were looking for and leave after 30 seconds. I would not show the popup in this case. But if a user was on the site for sometime, they probably did read your content and may be interested, so showing the popup at this time may be less aggravating.

These popups do work in terms of numbers, you WILL get more subscribers, so if that is your KPI this might be your solution.

A Study

  • There's tons of companies, which look respectable, specialized in this, like bounceexchange.com is it really Dark Pattern, maybe it all depends on how it's executed? Feb 3, 2015 at 10:18
  • It may as well be, but like everything, it is dependant on which point of view you take. I deal with things like this only a daily basis, us designers will see something as counter intuitive and not very user friendly but the guys in marketing will view the same item from their end,as it will make more sales and it will increase conversion. Feb 3, 2015 at 14:05

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