We all know variations of this call to action modal:

enter image description here

It seems like good conversion practice, but for me these modals appear only 15 seconds or so after opening a blog post, just when I was about to start reading. Personally I feel like they destroy the flow of reading content, but so many people use them so maybe I am alone in this.

Do you feel, or can cite studies that prove pop-up CTA modals ruin the UX or take away from the flow of interacting with web apps? If yes, have you witnessed conversion numbers that justify this practice?

  • What makes you say "it seems like a good conversion practice"?
    – Nate Green
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 12:50
  • 2
    @nategreen Many of those modals cancel buttons are worded with manipulative copywriting like "No, I do not want to get the free ebook that will improve my life because I am a worthless loser with a small pecker". Not exactly word for word but its the general principle, and I assume it gets more than a few hooked.
    – Bar Akiva
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 15:51
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    Ah, gotcha. I don't know whether or not they are effective, but "good" is definitely not the word. :) I believe they're regarded as a dark pattern, especially when they have manipulative language like that, but I can't find a resource to back that up at the moment.
    – Nate Green
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 16:31
  • @nategreen what I would like to know is if their ubiquity is indicative of effectiveness or not. As we know, carousels are widely used, yet have pathetic conversion numbers and take away from the UX. Hence why I dont always assume heavy usage = good UX/conversion. Thank you for introducing me to the "Dark Pattern" as I have yet to have heard about it!
    – Bar Akiva
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


I would 100% argue that these pop up modal windows take away from the user experience - I don't think there is much doubt about that. You mentioned that they destroy the flow of reading the content and I think that any user would disagree.

The reason they are used, is because they likely are successful. I guess it's going to come down to what's more important - the user's experience on your website or conversion rates. I suggest a balance of the two.

Personally, I can understand why it's used (particularly on landing pages, where the user's attention span is often shorter), but I think it's a lazy solution.

There are plenty of better ways of capturing an email without impeding on experience.


  • The InVision blog - as you scroll, a newletter signup appears in the header. It's always visible on the page, so if you want to sign up you can always do it - but it never gets in the way. Services out there like HelloBar make it really easy to implement this.
  • Ask for a sign-up midway through your content. If you've a lengthy blog article, putting a sign-up halfway through the content not only breaks up the piece visually, but also means it'll only be seen by the most engaged users, resulting in a better engagement rate.

That being said, sometimes, if it's just about leads - the popup window is hard to argue with for conversions. I just think there's cleverer ways of doing it.

In terms of it being a dark pattern, personally I don't see it as a dark pattern. A dark pattern by definition from darkpatterns.org:

A Dark Pattern is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.

I don't see these as being 'tricks' - it's lazy but without ill intent in my opinion. A dark pattern is more likely to have something a bit more sinister about it (in my opinion, often money-related - think aeroplane websites, ticketing insurance).

In terms of studies

A great article to read is over at Nielsen Norman - Overuse of Overlays: How to Avoid Misusing Lightboxes - they discuss lightboxes more generally, but you can see how it would apply to your question I'm sure.

There's a more directly related article over at usertesting.com worth a read too -- you can find it here.

  • I completely agree. Another example to add to the fixed footer / header and pop up after scrolling half way: it's the 'scrollbox' (load.sumome.com/images/screenshots/…) which in my opinion is much less invasive than a pop up
    – Ana Santos
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 16:37
  • Good point Ana, I forgot about those! Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 23:29

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