This article breaks down the psychology of popups. We’ll cover how to make popups helpful for your visitors and why you need to start using them today.

Businesses need to invest a lot of energy, research, and money into making their online presence strong and effective, and it’s no wonder 84% of businesses surveyed have a strong content marketing strategy. That means you need to implement all the available tools and craft plans to help you strive. One of the goals you’ll want to achieve is to get more website traffic. But traffic doesn’t mean success. However, conversions do, and according to Hubspot, 70% of marketers actively invest in content marketing projects to boost conversions.

This is where popup windows step in.

You need to make sure your website visitors don’t just leave empty-handed. You want them to perform the desired action. Whether it’s to subscribe to your newsletter or answer a survey question, you need their full attention. Popup windows can help you get it. 

Let’s get to it.

What Are Popups?

Let us first break down and explain precisely what popups are and what they look like.

Popup windows, aka popups, are website elements that appear on the screen, triggered by an action by your visitors. 

What can popups do for you and your visitors? Popups can:

  • help website visitors find what they’re looking for
  • help businesses serve their customers properly
  • provide the best possible customer experience

Simply put, they want every website visit to count.

For instance, popups frequently appear the moment your visitor decides to leave your website. This is your final chance to get them to change their mind and engage deeper with you.

However, they can appear at any chosen moment of the visitors’ journey.

This means that popups are a powerful tool used by marketers and businesses to:

  • take control of a visitor’s journey on the website
  • personalize their experience
  • improve UX
  • build stronger connections 
  • increase conversions and engagement

Popups can turn a reluctant visitor into a loyal customer. But, you need to know more about them to make it work.

When Do Popups Appear?

The key to successful popup placement is choosing the right moment. Each website visitor will have a different journey on your website. The key is to know what message to send, and at what moment.

Here are some examples:

  • cart abandonment popup: when a visitor is about to leave
  • newsletter subscription popup: after a visitor finishes reading your blog post
  • sales announcement popup: in the first 8 seconds of their visit

Visitors can also trigger popups by the path they’re making on the website and the pages they’re opening. The better you understand their intentions, the stronger your popup will be.

A Popup From Sleeknote
Screen capture by the author

What Is the Psychological Significance of Popup Windows?

Now that we understand what popups are and how they work, it’s time to focus on their psychological significance. Simply put, we need to answer these questions- Do popups really work so well? Why?

A survey by HubSpot found that more than 80% of people form a poor opinion of a brand if its ads are too intrusive or obnoxious. That’s why you need to understand the right psychological aspects of popups. We’ll discuss them one by one below.

1) Creating Urgency

People make decisions quickly when they’re under pressure. Popups can help create urgency and drive faster decisions with your visitors.


They don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on anything. And, if you include a countdown timer in your popup design, your visitors will feel obliged to respond immediately. This leaves them less time to think and potentially give up.

This way, popups are creating urgency and:

  • making your offer more attractive
  • making the visitors feel lucky they got the offer
  • turning them into conversions 

With this kind of psychological pressure, the popup creates the FOMO effect and drives positive visitor decisions.

2) Applying Color Psychology 

According to the Institute for Color Research, it takes 90 seconds for people to make a judgment about anything they see, and 90% of it is based on color.

Color psychology is something marketers have been using proudly for years. They make a certain color dominant in an ad, social media post, or in this case, a popup window. This color then makes their message stronger and helps evoke the right emotions.

Here are some examples:

  • red enhances urgency and passion
  • orange is a friendly and cheerful color that can inspire optimism and confidence
  • blue stands for trust and dependability
  • green is for well-being and growth

So, if you’re designing a popup for a youth fashion store, the bold color of red could help you get their attention. On the other hand, if you’re asking people to join your tech blog newsletter, try blue or black.

The bottom line is that colors shape how we feel and how we perceive a brand. Applying color psychology in popups is a powerful tool that influences your visitors the way you want them.

A Popup From Entrepreneur
Screen capture by the author

3) Personalizing

Customers have come to expect a brand to know their audience, meet their needs, and answer their questions. When people enter your website, they have a clear intent. And, they expect you to know what it is and help them fulfill it. 

In fact, 57% of consumers say they’re willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized offers, according to Salesforce. That means they want your help, guidance, and a personalized experience. 

Popups can personalize their journey and show them you’ve got their back. For instance, a visitor is scrolling down your products page. Suddenly, a popup appears on their screen saying:

Congrats! You’ve just won a discount coupon for your next purchase!

Or, a visitor from the UK clicked on one of your FaceBook ads and saw a message like:

How are things in the UK? We noticed you clicked on our latest ad on Facebook. Here’s a coupon code for 25% off.

In both examples, we rewarded our visitor’s engagement (i.e., scrolling and ad click-through). I mean, who doesn’t love discounts!?

In the second example, we recognized where they were coming from to give them an extra friendly welcome. Personalization works both ways. It’s a win-win.

But be careful not to overdo it. According to Forbes, a full-page popup can be considered too interruptive and even flagged by Google. This is especially true on mobile devices. So, make sure your popups are responsive!

4) Building Trust

Your website visitors and customers need to trust you. Building a strong connection with them is possible through popup windows.

Specifically, feedback and survey popups can show your customers the following:

  • you’re interested in their opinion
  • you care about their needs and problems
  • you’re listening
  • you’re open-minded

You can use popups to get feedback from your visitors and boost trust-building. For example, you can ask them about their experience, the reasons they visited, whether they found what they were looking for, and so many other useful questions. 

You can also try and prevent them from exiting your website. The important thing is they feel appreciated, and like they’re in good hands.

5) Instructing

When people go through your website, they can often lose focus and forget why they’re even there. This leads them to simply bounce off your website and give up on their initial intention.

But, if you provide guidance and instructions, they’ll feel more confident about their activity. This is why you have popups with loud and clear calls to action.

CTAs provide:

  • instructions
  • steps to make something happen
  • directions for their actions, based on their needs

This means you help them get to their goal quickly and without any trouble. If you use CTAs properly, you’ll be able to see an increase in conversions. Research shows that first-person and personalized CTAs can boost conversions by more than 40%.

A Popup From Neil Patel

6) Triggering Emotions

You can use popups to trigger certain emotions in website visitors. You can have them feel a certain way in order to act a certain way.

The stronger the emotions you evoke, the better.

Here’s an example:

A visitor is about to leave your website. A popup appears saying, “Wow, that hurts! Are you sure you want to leave us just like that? You’ll never learn about our summer collection of fabulous pieces!”

This popup evokes an emotion. And according to the University of Southern California (USC), an emotional response to an advertisement produces a great influence on the intent of a consumer to buy a product, and 31% of ads with emotional pull succeed. You are trying to help them, after all. They might even reconsider their decision and see what you’ve got lined up for them. 

USC also suggests that pride, love, achievement, man’s empathy, friendships, loneliness, and memories are the best when it comes to making a strong psychological effect by triggering the right emotions.

7) Strengthening Interests

Your visitor’s actions and clicks trigger popups to appear and deliver a specific message at the right moment. Why? Because they recognize their initial intention and find a way to make it stronger. A Sumo study shows that the best popups enjoy a 50.2% conversion rate! That means you need to choose your timing, design, and messages carefully. For instance, you see that a visitor has scrolled down 70% of your web page. This means they’re interested in what you have to say and find it valuable. This is the perfect moment for you to deliver a popup that asks them to join your newsletter or become a loyalty-club member.

A Popup From Shopify
Screen capture by the author

8) Adding Motivation

Visuals and media can be efficient when it comes to motivating people to interact with your brand. And popups are ideal for inserting images. In fact, popups with images perform better than popups without images by 83%. People are used to flashing images and videos and expect visually rich content from you as well.

Visually rich popups can:

  • create a stronger appeal to your offer
  • instantly show what your offer is about
  • build motivation and inspiration for them to take the offer

Well-designed popups are the additional motivation that visitors need to act.

9) Showing Professionalism

A great popup window is your opportunity to show your visitors you’re a professional who knows what they’re doing. They’ll see you’ve invested a lot into making their journey as pleasant and productive as possible. And, they’ll know how to appreciate it. Furthermore, if you read Forbes’ popup implementation rules, you’ll learn that you should design for mobile-first, make sure it doesn’t hinder the user experience, and always customize for specific pages and audiences.

A Popup From Romwe
Screen capture by the author

How to Design the Perfect Popup?

Lastly, to create the right psychological effect, you need to know how to design the perfect popup window. Below, you’ll find simple tricks that will help you nail your popups every time.

  • Make your message short and clear.
  • Match the design to the design of your website page.
  • Use color blocks to increase readability.
  • Make your CTA the most prominent element.
  • Add an image to grab attention.

Also, your copywriting needs to be on point. You need to emphasize the benefits of your offer and communicate them successfully. Don’t be afraid to outsource your copywriting to make sure your message is loud and clear.

All that’s left is for you to choose the right time and place and insert your popup window. Make sure to read all about it in our popup guide article.

Final Thoughts

The next time you’re thinking about inserting a popup in your webpage, think of what we just covered above. Know that you have the opportunity to take your visitors’ journey under control and guide them exactly the way they deserve. By sending the right messages and asking the right questions, your popups will create an improved UX and help your visitors remember your brand. They’ll help you deliver your message clearly, and push your visitors toward making the right decisions.

The psychology of popups is evident. Hopefully, this guide helped you realize how popup windows can turn your website traffic around. Use them to get more conversions and use every website visit in the best possible way.

This article’s featured image comes from Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.