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Designing Effective Popups: Best Practices and Tips

Kelsey Gilchrist, April 3, 2024

When designed effectively, popups can be a powerful tool for increasing website conversions. A great popup boosts engagement, turning visitors into customers. 

But how can you ensure you're using popups effectively on your website?

The secret to a great popup is simple: sticking to popup best practices in your design. By putting user experience first and carefully selecting the copy, design, and timing, you can offer users real value.

Let us help you discover website popup tips and best practices to enhance user experience and boost conversions. Unlock the top tricks to designing effective popups with this comprehensive guide.

What are Popups?

Website popups are windows that appear on a page, prompting visitors to take specific actions that will move them down the sales funnel. The feature allows for significant flexibility, with opportunities to customize the size, position, design, and timing to meet a company’s marketing goals.

Banners vs. Popups

While popups share similarities with a banner, there is one key difference between the two. Unlike banners, popups can block content on the screen. Because they temporarily prevent users from engaging with anything else on the site, popups are more likely to capture a user’s attention and result in engagement and conversions.

Banners, like the one above, are generally more subtle and appear at the top or bottom of your web page, and don't detract from the rest of the website. Both banners and popups can be impactful in terms of increasing engagement on your website.

Types of Popups

Popups can be designed in a range of formats. The various options can be categorized by their timing on the page and the intention behind their appearance. 

Welcome/entry popup: One of the most frequently used popups, a welcome or entry popup displays the moment a user visits a page. It sets the tone for the site and encourages visitors to learn more.

Timed popup: It’s sometimes better to delay a popup to get the highest engagement. Timed popups appear on a page after a predetermined period, which is typically matched to the average time users spend on a page.

Scroll-triggered: If your goal is to target the users who seem most interested in your product, a scroll-triggered popup may be the way to go. The window only appears when a user has scrolled a certain percentage of a page, demonstrating their engagement.

Click-through popups: Similar to scroll-triggered, click-through popups appear when a visitor clicks a particular element. They’re designed to help users find specific products and encourage them to act.

Exit-intent: As the name suggests, these popups don’t appear until the user intends to leave the page. The advantage here is that they don’t hinder the user’s experience while they’re scrolling and may help you keep them on the site longer by providing an offer such as a discount code.

When implemented thoughtfully, popups can enhance the user experience while also increasing sales and maintaining the integrity of a website’s design. The key is to craft well-designed messages that engage visitors and provide value.

How can Popups Support your Digital Marketing Strategy?

Popups can give your digital marketing strategy the boost it needs. By capturing the user’s attention, they provide an opportunity to guide behaviour and encourage specific actions.

You can leverage the power of popups to support a variety of marketing goals, from lowering a site’s bounce rate to increasing link clicks, signups, or form submissions. Take advantage of popups for:

Updates: Highlight the brand’s latest products, news, or holiday campaigns.

Promotions: Offer a discount or coupon code to encourage conversions and delay a user’s exit.

Newsletter signups: Collect visitor information by prompting visitors to sign up for your email list.

Other channels: Encourage users to follow the company on its social media channels for updates on future promotions.

Resources: Offer helpful information or downloadable resources that provide value to the user.

Feedback: Gather feedback by engaging users in short surveys.

Support: Provide opportunities to access support via a chat box or contact information.

What are the Best Practices for Popup Design?

The key to designing effective popups is to understand popup design best practices and implement them thoughtfully. Take advantage of these top tips to improve your popup user experience and increase conversions.

Put the User Experience First

In popup design, user experience is everything. As you build your marketing strategy, consider the user’s journey on the site, from the moment they arrive to their exit. Think about how you can engage your desired audience effectively without irritating or deterring them. 

Remember, the more you know about a user, the more effectively you can customize popups to enhance their journey. Put visitors first by: 

Get the Timing and Frequency Right

We've all been there. You open a web page and are instantly bombarded with popups. It can be frustrating, irritating, and overwhelming–and too often, it can cause you to leave the site.

There’s no doubt that adding too many popups is an easy way to drive visitors away from a website. That’s why getting the timing and frequency right is critical.

But how do you determine the correct timing? While there’s no hard and fast rule, a general guideline is to time the window to appear between three and 30 seconds from the moment a visitor arrives on the page. Within that period, you can hone your timing further by reviewing the site metrics. To start, aim for a popup to appear around the average time that visitors spend on the page. Then, you can experiment with behavioural triggers, such as messages that appear when a user clicks a link, scrolls, or exits the page. 

Remember, timing is all about understanding the visitor’s journey throughout the site. Concentrate on serving the user’s intention and improving the flow of their experience.

Include Compelling Copy, Clear CTAs, and Engaging Images

While timing matters, popups also need compelling copy, a clear call to action (CTA), and engaging images to successfully hook visitors. 

In your copy, remember that less is more. Keep the messaging concise and to the point. That said, don’t be afraid to get creative, making your copy more compelling by using language that will resonate with your ideal customer.

A great CTA should be as clear as possible. Use a strong verb, such as “Buy” or “Learn” and keep the message simple. Users should immediately understand what the offer is and why they should click the button.

Strong images can also enhance the efficacy of the popup. Select photos that are eye-catching while remaining consistent with your brand, carefully aligning them with the messaging.

Maintain Consistent Design

As with everything in marketing, design matters. While it’s tempting to create loud, attention-grabbing popups, resist that urge. Visuals that feel too gimmicky or spammy tend to deter wary users.

Not only should popups be well designed, but the branding should match the rest of the website to maintain a consistent, high-quality experience. The best popup builders on the market are specially developed to offer extensive customization, ensuring that your company’s branding is integrated effectively.

While it’s not the only option, minimalism is often the strongest choice. Calming colours, rounded shapes, and clean, uncluttered windows can go a long way in connecting with visitors and assuring them of the offer’s authenticity.

Ensure Mobile Responsiveness 

Whatever you do, don’t sleep on mobile design. Popups should appear just as clearly on mobile as they do on browsers.

When building popups for mobile responsiveness, it’s critical to understand that it’s more complex than simply scaling down the design. Because the browsing experience on a phone differs so significantly from the browser, the format should be different, too. Windows must be taller and narrower, form fields and buttons should be easy for users to navigate with their thumbs, and the copy may need to be simplified.

Top Tips for Creating User-Friendly Popups That Convert

Popups don’t have to be annoying for visitors. Try these website popup tips to create well-designed messages that enhance the user experience and keep people on your page longer.

Offer Real Value

The best way to engage visitors? Offer real value in every popup. 

Share an offer that’s useful to visitors, like a free, downloadable resource or a discount code for a product. To ensure the messages connect with users, they should be targeted, well-timed, and relevant.

Easy Exit

Make sure popups are always easy to dismiss. They should be designed with a clear, highly visible “X” or a close button that’s simple to find and click. A popup isn’t meant to trick the user. It should be helpful to them—and simple to remove from the screen if they’re not interested.

A/B Testing

Often, it’s tough to determine the best popup strategy for your audience without trying a few options. That’s where A/B testing comes in.

To conduct an A/B test for popups, create two nearly identical versions, changing just one or two elements. Then, track which version leads to more conversions over a set period. Keep testing on an ongoing basis to build your understanding of what resonates with the audience. By continuously testing and optimizing popup designs and messages, you can feel confident that you’re implementing the most effective strategy.


Don’t forget to pay attention to accessibility. Popups should follow the central tenants of accessible web design to ensure that all visitors are able to engage with the messages.

Make sure your popups adhere to relevant guidelines and are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users, regardless of their abilities. Examples of accessible design include maintaining strong colour contrast to ensure legibility, using colour combinations that are distinguishable to colour blind users, and adding alt text to images.

Legal Compliance

Don’t forget to ensure that every popup is compliant with relevant regulations. The entire site must conform to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as well as local privacy laws.

Common Popup Design Mistakes to Avoid

Want to make sure you’re making popups that really work? Avoid these common popup design mistakes that may discourage users from engaging with your site.

Overwhelming users by overusing popups

No matter how well designed they may be, if a site has too many popups, it can deter visitors from continuing to browse. Keep them targeted, intentional, and well-timed to ensure users feel compelled to stay on the page.

Providing no clear value or irrelevant offers

Nothing will irritate visitors faster than a popup that gives them nothing useful. Be thoughtful about providing offers that are valuable to visitors and relevant to your audience’s specific needs.

Neglecting mobile users

It doesn’t matter how great your offer is if visitors can’t access it easily on mobile. Because so much website traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets, it’s critical to design popups for mobile as well as desktop. 


While it's natural to be hesitant about implementing popups for the first time, the reality is that a well-crafted popup can enhance user experience and make your website effective. When designed thoughtfully, they can be a vital piece of any company’s website strategy. 

To design effective popups, focus on integrating best practices and prioritizing the user experience while maintaining website design integrity. Well-designed popups should include strong UX, correct timing and frequency, compelling copy, clear CTAs, visual harmony, and mobile responsiveness to meaningfully engage users and encourage conversions. You can ensure that popups are as user-friendly as possible by offering real value to users, providing an easy exit, and complying to relevant regulations.

Written by

Kelsey Gilchrist

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