Why That Lightbox is a Bad Idea

That looks like an interesting piece of content..I'll click the link and give it a read....oh no I won't.....there's a big popup lightbox standing between me and the content.

There seems to be a growing trend - bloggers placing an email newsletter opt-in form inside a lightbox that automatically popups to visitors.   I can't understand why so many bloggers (or should I say mindless markerters) think this is a good idea.  Heres why (hopefully I'll change some minds):

Users Are Used to Set Browsing Pattern

You click a link > you are taken to the content.  This is the expected scenario - and the user is used to it.   However, by popping up a lightbox, you are breaking this pattern.  This in turn causes confusion and annoyance.

You Are Selling to the User before they Have a Chance to Read Your Content

Most of these popup plugins, only show the first time the user visits the site.  This is a ridiculous concept - surely you want the user to get to know you and your content before signing up for your newsletter?

You Have a Popup Blocker Installed

You are using a browser with a popup blocker - which blocks popup advertisments.  You probably love the fact you have this installed.  Yet - you break this piece of software by using another method.

Stop the Hard Sell

You're an awesome blogger, with amazing content.  You don't need to push me into subscribing.   I probably already subscribe to your list (if its worth reading).  Don't annoy me.

Netbooks and Iphones Can't Handle These Popups

Have you tried accessing your site on a netbook or iphone?  Did you bother doing any browser, or usability testing?  Did you ask your readers if they found this box annoying?

Netbooks don't have the screen space to display many of these lighbox plugins.  The result is the "close" button being shown offscreen rendering the site useless.

Don't just base your decision on whether to keep this plugin installed on your subscriber count metric - you are being ignorant to many other metrics like bounce rates and more abstract metrics like user satisfaction - both equally important.

So here's a challenge for you bloggers (mindless marketers), come up with a better solution that doesn't break common usability rules and pays respect to your readers.

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