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Oh Joy! A popup that wants my email address

“I know what I am going to do today, I am going to go to my local council website and signup for generic news and events emails” said no-one ever; Yet judging by their websites, quite a number of councils seem to consider this to be the prime reason why people are visiting their site.

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Looking at the latest scan of council sites by Localgov.PageSpeedy; the proliferation of popup email signup boxes seems to be spreading across council websites like some form of marketing virus. Yet there is little to say that this is what people actually want.

Sure the providers of email alert services will tell you that getting all of your citizens signed up to email alerts will increase engagement* save you money and it will enable you to keep people informed about what the council is doing; but really just think about it. When was the last time you visited any website and thought “oh joy they have interrupted my viewing of the website with a popup box for my email address ?”.

Immediate Pop-up boxes can be damaging in many ways; They send the message that you care more about pushing your message out than actually helping people to achieve the thing they have come to do and from a usability point of view the break a user’s flow for the task they have come to do or worst make it difficult for them or orientate themselves on your site.

Presenting new and often irrelevant information to users can add to confusion and will reduce the conversion rates you should care about – people getting to do the thing they came to do (and not contacting you in a more expensive way to do it).

If you do have a valuable service to offer people with email notifications: Actually useful service alerts, or actual news that affect them and not just a councillor pointing at a pothole. Then placing signposts and signups within the relevant sections of the site or signposting people once they have completed a task, is a much less intrusive way of getting people’s attention and is actually offering people a service they may want.

* in all likelihood increasing signups through a popup won’t increase engagement