Shout, let it all out

Every once in awhile, I land on some marketing blog. Either because I clicked on an appetising link on Twitter or because they prevent Pocket from downloading their content, the latter being itself a bad sign.

After a few seconds reading the post, which, by the way, is too often about the best way to spam your friends and family gathered around the more neutral name of community, I get a an overlay jumping at my head suggesting I should subscribe to some mailing list or buy some product.

Quicksprout overlay

You’ve got something like this at Quicksprout (with even a second screen if you say “no”).

Buffer overlay

And something like that at Buffer. The overlay does not obfuscate all the screen, but still, it makes reading the article impossible.

5 occasions where you must pop an overlay at your visitor’s face

After browsing the Web for almost 18 years, I’ve gathered a list of occasions where you should display an intrusive overlay between your visitor and your content at all cost.

1. When they come from a blog post or a social media.

Someone coming on your site after clicking on a link from a blog or a social media post obviously want to get a big intrusive overlay popping at their face. There’s no way they came because they were interested by the title of the summary of the post that brought them here.

2. When they come to you directly

Indeed, someone typing your site into their browser URL bar or having you in their favourite does it because they want to get your overlay displayed in the middle of their screen.

To be honest, that’s exactly what I did tonight when I visited Quicksprout and Buffer blog. I didn’t care about the content. All I wanted was their lovely overlay so I could make a screenshot for my post. Really.

3. When they come to you from a search engine

I get lots of people coming here from Google looking for the best Mac application (in French). Well, at least that’s what they believe they’re looking for, but they’re wrong. They don’t care about Mac applications, they care about the big overlay popping after a few second to ask them for their email and cash. With no Mac app as a reward.

4. When they come to you from an advertisement

When you’re investing lots of cash into Adwords, you’re expecting your search engine marketing to pay. SEM doesn’t pay unless you setup some tricks to welcome your visitors, the first one being hiding what you’re selling with an overlay about something completely different.

5. When they come from your mailing list

When you run a mailing list, don’t forget to track where your clicks come from. Even more important: if you’re running a blog, don’t forget to truncate your mailing content and display a full screen overlay every time a reader clicks on your links. We both know they’re not interested in reading the end of your post, are they?

5 occasions when you shouldn’t

At this point, I must confess something. I’ve been lying all along.

There’s no reason in the world to ruin your Web site user experience popping an overlay at your visitors. There’s no reason to spam your visitors with your spammy call to action. No fucking reason, not even raising drastically your transformation rate.

I’m sure you’d love to see a sandwich man popping in front of you every time you enter a shop, preventing you from accessing what you’ve come to see.

It reminds my experience at Grand Quartier in the mid 90’s. Grand Quartier was a clothing store in Bordeaux (France) that occupied a whole building of 3 or 4 floors at the beginning of St Catherine street, the longest merchant street in Europe. They sold every fashionable brand from the teenagers favourites to classical ones, but the store had been designed for my parents 15 years before.

Grand Quartier was in itself a depressing place, but there was worst. As soon as you put a finger toe in the store, a 50 to 60 years old sales woman was jumping on you asking about what she could do for you, trying to sell you something you didn’t want. And she would not leave you alone until you left the place.

I was probably 17 or 18 when my mother and I went there. Grand Quartier was outrageously expensive, but during the sales, you could get some stuff for a decent price. As a teenager, I still did my shopping with my mom because I knew that every time we wanted to buy a pair of jeans, I would also get some additional, unplanned stuff.

As expected, the saleswoman jumped on us as soon as we entered the place.

Hello, how can I help you?
Mind your fucking own business, I’ll call you when I need you.

Mum told me something about my language, but she didn’t apologise to the woman. She was obviously feeling as oppressed as I was. 15 years later, this is exactly how I feel every time I visit a Web site that pops one of these bloody overlays.

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