How to use pop-up windows

Pop-ups to Increase Conversion of Your Website

Popup types

For the past two decades, pop-ups have remained one of the most popular trends in website development. They can easily convince the visitor to perform an action you need them to and greatly improve your website’s UX.

If the first thing you think of when hearing the word “pop-up” is an irritating full-screen advert, you’re forgetting about other types of pop-up window that are necessary for your website to work efficiently.

In this post we describe different kinds of pop-ups and share tips on how to make them work towards your conversion growth.

What are Pop-ups?


Popup types




Not all windows can be called pop-ups and not all of them are used for advertising.

Pop-ups are not necessarily something intrusive or meddlesome. Through their proper use, you can motivate visitors to perform the action you need them to and help them navigate your site or application. To do this, you just need to determine the type of a pop-up window and content you want to put there.

Before understanding their differences, let's discover the term "modality".


Depending on the context, the term "modality" can have two different meanings.

  • With respect to the interface as a whole, it implies availability of different modes: for example, for a set of capital letters, you need to press Caps Lock – that is, switch to / select another mode.
  • When we talk about pop-up windows, modality means blocking work with the interface until the window is closed (usually involving the blacking out of the background).

Classifications of Pop-up Windows

Now we can disassemble the classifications.



popup ads


A pop-up itself is a window that the user didn’t purposefully bring up. Usually it’s intended for marketing purposes and appears unexpectedly. They can be modal or non-modal. In most cases, such pop-ups carry no real useful information and cause irritation to the user. You can, however, make them more valuable.


Here’s a list of tips to make your pop-ups more attractive:

  • Formulate clear call to action.
  • Use bright colours.
  • Make your offer really useful.
  • Don’t be forceful.

Always remember that users who come to your website are people with their own values. Don’t impose your services on them or compel them to perform the action. Catch them not through the number of ads but through pleasant bonuses.





Notifications report that a process has started or ended, or that some action has taken place. Usually they disappear with time if you don’t pay attention to them, or else continue to hang until the user closes them (in case the information is especially important). They may also contain action buttons.

Remember: The text of notifications should always be brief but informative, so that the user can understand what has happened.

Read more about notifications here.





An alert is a pop-up window used to report an error, or to warn the user about the consequences of the action that he or she is about to perform. Usually they contain two buttons, like "Do something" and "Cancel". Alerts are most often modal that is, they block the interface behind them until the user performs an action inside the window.

Since they interrupt the user’s work, alerts should only be used in extreme cases – for example, if you permanently delete a file or to confirm a purchase.

A good alert always has an informative text explaining what has happened and why it’s worth the user's attention.

  • The phrase "An error has occurred!" is an example of a bad alert, since it doesn’t report any useful information, but if you replace it with "There is no connection! Check if your computer is connected to the network ", then the user will become much more aware of the problem and how to solve it. Read about how to deal with errors and empty screens.
  • In a good alert there are no more than two buttons, while the title of each is a verb describing the action that results from their being pressed. For example, the "Yes" and "Cancel" buttons seem to be understandable to the user, but if you change them to "Delete" and "Cancel", this will be much better.

Light boxes


Light box


Windows of this kind are used to enlarge the item that the user wants to focus on. Basically, light boxes are used in galleries to view pictures.

For example, to thumb through images without leaving the lightbox, use thumbnails inside the window or the left and right arrow buttons.

  • Light boxes can also be both modal and non-modal.



Dialogue pop-up


These are dialogue boxes that the user opens independently and performs various actions within. They can be modal (for important and one-time tasks) and non-modal (for frequent and repetitive tasks). The range of use of such windows is very wide.





A tooltip is a pop-up window displaying additional or reference information. They can be brought up either by hovering the cursor over an element or by clicking on it. Tooltips are always non-modal.





If you mix the dialogue box and the tooltip, you get a popover. This is a non-modal pop-up window that appears at the click site and, as a rule, has an arrow pointing to the element to which it refers.

You may use a popover to access additional functions or partitions.

Remember: only one popover can be opened on the page at a time upon an additional one being opened, the previous one is closed.

What to Consider when Planning your Pop-up Windows

The use of two or three pop-up windows may seem excessive or superfluous, but to use one at the stage when a user is about to jump to another site can be a good chance to catch his or her attention and to prolong the dialogue with some sort of special offer or subscription suggestion.

Proper compilation and placement will help achieve the desired result.

  • Follow the rules of a specific platform. For example, in OS X, the modal dialogue always appears at the top and allows you to resize the parent window, whilst in Windows it always appears in the middle of the screen and tightly blocks the parent interface.
  • Experiment. The same window on each page of the website or after a certain amount of scrolling will result only in negative responses. Use different types of pop-ups, but not all at once.
  • Test it. Before you embed a pop-up window into your resource, be sure to test how it will look. Pop-ups should not interfere, but they must still be noticeable.

If you’re on your way to website development, contact us to discuss your project.


Max Summers
September 18, 2018
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