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I don't like exit intent popups.

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You know the thing. Your cursor leaves the window, and suddenly a pop up appears with... something or other, honestly I don't read them. The idea is that if the user is about to leave your site, you should do something to try and retain them -- after all, the worst case is they leave anyway, right? But I always trigger these accidentally. Perhaps a site is too slow to load, so I open another tab while I wait (Shame if your site takes more than two seconds, by the way.) Or perhaps I'm just careless, or I have a nervous habit of moving my cursor. Whatever the case, there are lots of reasons my cursor might leave the window before I'm ready to leave. And now, the content I was waiting for has a giant box blocking it. I'm likely to abandon the site at this moment.

But I wonder if I am the only one. A cursory search on this subject shows a few sites promoting exit intent because they are selling some code that will do it for you (of course), but also a few sites that cite some data showing an increase in conversions. There is surprisingly little hate for something that seems so annoying.

So I'm left with a couple of questions:

  1. Is this really a positive feature? And if so
  2. Is it ethical or wise to implement a feature that you personally find annoying, if data proves it's beneficial?

Top comments (17)

itsasine profile image
ItsASine (Kayla)

Things I hate:

  • A massive box over the content begging me to join a newsletter the second the site loads, before I've even gotten to read the content to know if I like the style. I will exit the tab and move on with my life.
  • A massive box over the content begging me to turn off ad blocker, when I have no clue if you're actually using an ad host that won't give me malware and I have no clue if you're worth anything yet anyway. I will exit the tab and move on with my life.
  • A massive box over the content begging me not to go, but I've finished reading the content... now I don't like your style, will exit the tab, and move on with my life.
  • Any massive boxes over content. I will exit the tab and move on with my life.

I may be a little salty over this since I prefer reading over watching and so many bloggers seem to think this call to action will endear me. It does not.

I signed up for since it just kind of hides a comment/post/notification that's like "Hey, you should sign up!" rather than a massive box blocking content. And I will forever love them for this.

juanfrank77 profile image
Juan F Gonzalez

Hahaha I totally relate with the huge box promising some stuff in exchange for subscribing to a email list when I recently landed on the site and haven't even been able to read anything of their content yet.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

No, these are the absolute worst!

The exit dialog designed to help you not lose your work if you're editing a doc etc. are great. Anything along those lines used as a marketing tool is the absolute worst. I assure you I dislike them as much as you do.

dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

It can be a security thing -- making sure the user knows they're leaving for an external site and that they shouldn't attempt to log in to your site unless they know they've come back. Steam does this, for one example, and it's not hard to think of other situations where the pattern could be called for (they generally involve the combination of money and personal information).

But there's a special place in hell for whoever came up with plain old nag screens.

itsasine profile image
ItsASine (Kayla)

There's a difference between clicking an external link (which Steam and banks will do a pop up for) and just daring to navigate away from their content using built-in browser features like the back button or new tab.

This post seems to be addressing the later while the former is more of a solid security "if you do this, it's your fault" warning and may even self-dismiss after a couple dozen seconds.

dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

As far as the user's concerned, they're trying to navigate somewhere else and something's interrupting that process. It could be different mechanically (although from what I know you could implement either the same way) but the difference that really matters is that one has a legitimate reason to interrupt, and the other does not.

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

It does, but the title is "I don't like exit intent popups".
I've been saved on a few occasions when typing a lot into, say, a Jira ticket over a few minutes and then trying to navigate away.

My best solution to this would be to be able to configure them in your profile with a setting such as "Warn me if I'm about to leave a page without saving my changes".

luke profile image
Luke Barnard

Is it a positive feature?

If by positive, you mean it has a positive effect on the user, probably not. It's not something the user asked for, it serves no extra functionality.

Is it ethical ... ?

Yes. This isn't really a question of ethics though. If you find it annoying, the user might do too but it's more likely a tradeoff between retaining the user and letting them exit without prompting them (analytics could provide insights into this).

wise ... ?

It probably is. If you think about it, most sites do this in one way or another. Assuming the KPI of the site is linked with the number of sign-ups, adding a new route to a successful sign-up can only be a good thing.

Sure, it could frustrate those who would prefer to use the site without signing up, and if your KPIs depend on those users too then not annoying them should be a high priority.

I suspect that a combination of requiring a minimal amount of data from a user (e.g. just an email address) and requiring it only at the point it becomes necessary (i.e. not when the user moves focus to another window, but rather before they need an identity in the system) could be a decent alternative.

kspeakman profile image
Kasey Speakman • Edited

Agreed, very annoying.

It is not a positive feature for any site I have ever seen utilize it. I usually find them on aggregation sites that are just regurgitating someone else's content, and hoping for some ad clicks.

The 2nd question is a bit more nuanced. It depends on a couple of things. If it provides negative value to the user, but it is beneficial to me, then I would classify that as a step toward unethical. Then you add in the motivation for such a feature. Does the government require me to show a popup which is detrimental to the user experience? Idiotic and unfortunate, but not unethical. It really just depends on the situation.

niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic

As long as it's not preventing closing the tab with an alert (via window.onbeforeunload), but soley showing an overlay when the mouse is going up, I don't care so much. I'd say it's on a level with opening links in new tabs. I'm done trying to talk clients out of it because marketing always wins and I really don't care anymore.

klemensek profile image

Annoying as f***, but user/customer can get free delivery, 10% discount, ...
Super feature for webshop owners :)

joshualjohnson profile image
Joshua Johnson

Everyone hates them, facts are analytics will show you that this type of retargeting actually works! So until people stop converting, this practice will continue.

krayone profile image

Maybe, but analytics are saying something about people leaving with hate?

johnbwoodruff profile image
John Woodruff

Personally, the second those appear, I close the tab without hesitation. Whether I was planning on staying or leaving, I'm now gone.

pmcgowan profile image

By far one of the most useful skills I ever got out of web dev was being able to inspect and delete popups, and re-enable body scrolling. I refuse to answer your annoying popup!

andrewlucker profile image
Andrew Lucker

I don't like fraudulent purchases. Maybe that's just a vendor thing though.

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