I have a website where I want to advertise a specific product/service. Is it OK to use a modal that grays out the rest of the screen to show this product, or will this turn away visitors?

Edit: The modal I am planning on using will appear in the center of the screen and overlay the rest with grey. The box will contain a coupon code for $50 off and a small Google ad. The box can be easily closed with the X button in the corner and by clicking outside the box. It it mostly unobtrusive.

  • What do you mean by "is it ok?" You know that you're going to turn away some visitors (especially first time visitors) if you show it too quickly. This is a business question that balances lost future visitors for ad-views today.
    – Mayo
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 19:57
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    It would drive me away. I did not come to your website to see the pop up, did I ? Some websites do this, its a question of what your core website content/business is , will user be patient enough to click out of pop up every visit ?, is the content you are offering that important to the user ? Forbes.com does something similar (not exactly a pop up as you describe, but a 'by-passable' page before showing actual content. I click through the "Quote" page/ad page.. to read the article sometimes.. it depends.
    – PK2016
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 20:04
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    I'm curious to hear whether you have explored other options. One thought experiment I've found useful is to imagine the site as a human representative of your product or service, and the interaction as a conversation between that person and the user. If I were to physically walk into your place of business, would you immediately run up to me and shout in my face?
    – Matt Smith
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 20:55
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    See Max's answer below. In the old days "pop-up" only meant that it opened a new window, but now the term apparently includes modal overlays like the one you're describing.
    – octern
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 23:14
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    Your conundrum is: No one likes instrusive ads, Everyone loves free money. You'll have to test it. Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 1:10

1 Answer 1


In the name of all internet users, I beg you not to use a pop-up advertisement.

Nobody likes pop-up advertisements. Nobody.

Okay, that's not entirely true. 95% of the internet doesn't like pop-up ads, according to the Nielsen Norman Group. They did a quite interesting study on the impact of advertisements on the User Experience.

enter image description here

Users not only dislike pop-ups, they transfer their dislike to the advertisers behind the ad and to the website that exposed them to it.

Source: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/most-hated-advertising-techniques/


enter image description here

When I saw this advertisement, I had to put it on twitter and had to do meditation to calm down. "Skip this ad" is hidden in the corner and it's not very clear that this is an ad. So people will stare to the screen a couple of seconds thinking "did I click the right link?". This is not a pop-up advertisement (it's a redirect), but it comes close to a pop-up. And for the users, it won't be any different.

A pop-up advertisement that grays out the content is something most users will instantly click away or dislike at first, because it prevents them from getting to the things they came for.

Spammy Advertisements

I once saw this website which used to put advertisement pop-ups behind random words, making them look like links. These sneeky pop-up ads don't look very reliable. And it's distracting. Once people hover over the link (accidently or not), it's blocking content.

enter image description here

What's good?

Nielsen's study has some tips on the good way of advertising.

Users were particularly pleased with ads that clearly:

  • indicate what will happen if people click on them
  • relate to what people are doing online
  • identify themselves as advertisements
  • present information about what they are advertising
  • provide additional information without having to leave the page.

Advertisements on the sides are often completely ignored. Placing ads between paragraphs of content won't hurt if they are relevant to the content and if they are interesting for your website's target audience (keeping the points above in mind).

Short answer: don't use pop-up advertisements.

  • What I am thinking of using meets almost none of these criteria. Look at the edit to the post I made.
    – anna328p
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 22:59
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    It's still a "pop-up in front of your window" which annoys 95% of the people. It's still blocking the content and there is no relevance for visitors to the context of the article yet. I would still say: don't do it the way you wanted to make it. Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 23:36
  • It would be interesting to see a real study on how long users stay on a site with any sort of modal popup. For me, it's the time it takes to close the tab. Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 16:04
  • @AlienTechnology My hypothesis is that the bounce rate would go up with a popup on the page. Depending on the metrics you look at, a popup could be successful. It's proven to increase conversion, but here we measure UX. It's hard to measure frustration with quantitative analytics. Maybe users are determined to see the website, so they won't leave. Yet they get annoyed by the popup. Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 21:48

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