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Best Practices for Website Popups

Website popups have a reputation for being obnoxious and in-your-face, which is precisely why organizations use them—to share meaningful, immediate information you can’t miss. But sometimes, the rules on when to use a pop-up are a little murky, and getting it wrong can mean that people either miss important information or, like the boy who cried wolf, begin to slowly ignore all of your popups. We’ve put together a guide on some best practices for when and how to use website popups. 

The Practical Purpose of Popups

A website popup is designed to interrupt the user experience on your website. The first question to ask yourself: how important is the information I want to share? 

“When creating popups, have a clear goal in mind,” shares Chelsea Janke, Integrated Marketing Director at CEL. “A popup can notify, capture interest, invite someone to an event, or offer content. The purpose of the popup should be clear to your website user and quickly convey information.”

Urgent Communications

Immediate need-to-know information is perfect for a popup on your district and school home pages. Crisis communications, school closures, safety messages, service disruptions (phone systems down?), and anything unexpected and urgent can safely go in a popup. Remember that many people use popup and ad blockers in their internet browsers, so sharing critical information across multiple channels is essential.

Information Changes/Updates

Event location changed last minute? Forgot to include an important guideline in communications? Before creating a popup, you should know how often your webpage is viewed by the audience you’re trying to inform. Is your audience likely to see your popup, or would an email/text communication be a more appropriate channel? 

A change to high school graduation might warrant a popup on the high school’s home page, but pushing back the PTA meeting by a half hour isn’t popup worthy (and your audience is unlikely to be checking your website to notice the information anyway).

Enrollment Marketing/Event Marketing

Driving a kindergarten enrollment marketing campaign or pushing out job fair communications? Website popups don’t have to be just a one-way communication channel. You can invite prospective parents to input their email addresses to receive a packet of school enrollment information, or capture interest on a careers page by collecting the contact information of job seekers. 

Content Offers

A robust website offers multiple ways to access information. For example, you probably have a digital school calendar that contains school and district events AND a printable one-pager that shows your most important dates.

In much the same way, consider offering downloads of other information that may be easier to peruse separately from your website. There may be instances where using a popup to share a website download is appropriate. 

Finalsite, a school website platform, recommends using content offers to drive more inquiries and applications. Not every content offer needs a popup, but letting a website browser know that you have something of value you want to give them, free, can drive up engagement.

A popup on a kindergarten academics page may offer a free download of a “Is your child ready for school?” activity packet. Your community education/continuing education portal may offer a downloadable catalog of summer courses. You can encourage families on an academic page to sign up for your school newsletter.

Timed Website Popups

Some website platforms allow for timed popups. Rather than bombard your user when they first open a webpage, a timed pop allows someone to read the page content or scroll partway down the screen before their attention is drawn away. 

When a message is urgent, you want a page pop to draw attention immediately, but asking someone to sign up for your newsletter is never urgent. Instead, consider having your popup appear after someone has browsed halfway down your news story.  


To ensure that your website popups meet their intended purpose, Janke advises knowing three things before posting. 1) The goal of your popup, 2) The intended audience of your popup, and 3) The potential audience of your popup. 

If your popup tries to meet more than one goal at a time, it may confuse people. And if you’re trying to communicate with a select audience, but your popup is on your main district page and viewed by hundreds (or thousands) of families, there may be a more effective way to reach the right population. Consider all of your communication channels before reaching for popups.

And never break the golden rule, says Janke. “Never use a popup in place of a website update.” If your popup is communicating a change or important piece of information, make sure that nothing on your website is conflicting.”




Published on: August 3, 2022