It is pretty easy to make fun of pop ups and interstitials.  They interfere with the web experience and for the most part are annoyances.  But people continue to utilize them, because they work.

I spend a lot of time looking at lawyer’s websites.  Lawyers are group of people who eagerly seek out work.  Like all businesses they are trying to capture online users right away.  Get them to the site and hit them with a pop up or interstitial that tries to work them into a communication funnel.

Meaning in between, an advertisement that appears in a separate browser window while you wait for a Web page to load. Interstitials are more likely to contain large graphics, streaming presentations, and applets than conventional banner ads, and some studies have found that more users click on interstitials than on banner ads. Some users, however, have complained that interstitials slow access to destination pages.

-Webopedia

So the question might be, if this is all they want, why not just have the information you see on the interstitial on the actual page.  Perhaps an invite to chat or at least a simple form to leave your email and phone number right on the page after you have digested what is on the page?

For these people, your enjoyment of the content does not matter.  It is a sophisticated form of advertising called content marketing.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

– Content Marketing Institute

The interstitial is popular with content marketers and the pages they are associated with are often a tool for these professionals. Why use a content marketer?

A lot of businesses try to grow online using a very simple premise. The more traffic you drive to a location, the more leads or customers you will get.  To get traffic to their site, some site owners spend a lot of time and money working with very smart people to build up a site that will work well on Google.

People search for a term.  If the marketing is good, which does not mean the content is actually good, the person clicks through.  Then, right as they are about to enjoy some potentially quality information, they are hit with with the interstitial.  

If you are looking for a decent signal that you might be looking at this type of content.  You just found it.

At its best, this practice produces useful well-written content by a thoughtful professional. That is just slightly obscured behind a layer of obvious marketing.  You pay to read that content with your click or your personal information.

The problem is, in the end, this leads to an inauthentic ecosystem.  One where content is a means to an end, only valuable in its ability to attract people to the funnel. 

Does this lead to great content?  Maybe, but the reason you write is almost as important as what your write.  Writing made exclusively for the purpose of getting an email address or a view? That is clickbait.

Something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.

– Merriam-Webster

So what to do?

You could abandon the interstitial. Counting on less-intrusive methods of getting people to connect with you.  

The choice is up to you  Just remember, your online presence reflects who you are.  The actions you are taking could be pushing away the people you are trying to attract.  

On a more general level, you are also making the internet a worse place.  Usability issues and noise are growing exponentially, despite the best efforts of companies and web professionals.

While interstitials might be universally loathed, there is no financial incentive to not use them.  Google has penalties that are minor and SEO specialist have quickly learned to work around them.  

Efforts like Google’s have reduced the number of full page interstitials, giant banners and pops up.  This is great, but the practice is still a grey area in terms of web usability. 

Just because something is easy, does not mean it is the best.  Do you enjoy your  experience on websites that have interstitials?  What are you saying to other people when you use them?  So explore your options, consider your budget, your talent, and make the decision you think is best when it comes to interstitials.  

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Photo of Garry Vander Voort Garry Vander Voort

Garry has a versatile skill set including web development, team management, project management and social media marketing. He is a problem solver praised for having a calming influence on demanding clients. He is a skilled communicator able to explain technical concepts in straightforward terms, and adept at strategic staffing, resource management and cost control.