Updated: October 2019
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Like many people, you may hate website popups. What’s a popup? It’s that annoying type of window – or web element – opening over the top of content without your permission. Popups usually contain advertisements, chats, or a request you signup for a newsletter or email list. It may cover the entire page or just a corner. Popups can occur instantly or be timed. It may happen only once or incessantly on every single page and post.
The popup problem is mainly about usage. They’re an intrusive, in-your-face, artificial-urgent-appeal to divulge your email address or engage in a sales pitch. They happen when you arrive on a page – or as you’re leaving a page (called exit intent).
Popup plugins will *not* force people to sign up. But the goal is collecting leads and generating more sales. Sounds noble.
Even though some popups are inoffensive and look nice, most deliver a bad user experience. They often cause so much animated shaking-shuddering-swinging screen action it ruins all good user experience. They then are frustrating and annoying – and even as disturbing as sparking a blue-static-arc on a cold metal doorknob. Painful and jarring.
We rarely see popups used in inoffensive and unobtrusive ways. Site owners simply abuse popups thinking the more *visual noise* the better for communicating or grabbing attention. It’s not fun – it’s usually repellent. It’s garishly ugly. It’s shouting indoors.
The worst and biggest popup offender is OptinMonster plugin, first created in 2013. It uses an API that adds 385 milliseconds of load time to every page. And costs a minimum of $9 per month. What? The pro version is $29 per month. That’s terrible. There is no free version. Yet this plugin resides in the free WordPress plugin directory. What the heck is OptinMonster doing in the free plugin directory?
OptinMonster smacks of slowness with a 1.1 megabyte zip download and requiring an API (application programming interface). It has a whopping 4 million downloads with 600,000+ active installs. Retention then is: 15 percent – that’s pretty amazing. With those numbers it, must be good. Right? But these guys are robbing people. Why isn’t anyone complaining? Why no one is complaining defies reason.
Perhaps we made a mistake. Are we sure OptinMonster isn’t free? Yes. We double checked. And while it appears free, it’s not.
If you download OptinMonster and install it, you can’t use it until you install the API. It does nothing. You’re locked out. So you click a link and you’re taken to a typical 3-tier plan where you select how much you’ll pay per month (but it’s an upfront annual payment). Then you get your API key to use the so-called *free* plugin. That’s not free in our opinion. Do you think it’s free – just because it’s in the free plugin directory? This is a bait-and-switch ploy. Only there isn’t even any tasty bait to chew on.
So a little math: $9 x 12 months = $108 per year (minimum) x 600,000 active installs = $64.8 million dollars per year. Now we suppose some installations don’t have APIs activated and are just laying there dormant. But that’s still a lot of cash. Those poor users could get something with less “in-your-face” and a more pleasant user experience for free.
We have yet to see an OptinMonster plugin review that isn’t an affiliate link. The reporting is self-serving and biased.
What is the better, faster and free popup plugin?
Holler Box – WordPress Popup Plugin for eCommerce
Active installs: 2,000+
Zip file size: 122k
This small plugin uses only 3 calls (HTTP requests). 2.8k, 3.6k, and 3.8k loaded in parallel. That’s about 10k. Estimated load time: less than 40 milliseconds. But not on every page – only where it’s used (selective activation). Holler Box is a nice, lightweight plugin built correctly for mobile speed.
So don’t put a monster on your page.
We also want to mention this alternative plugin:
Easy WordPress Subscribe – Optin Hound
Active installs: 2,000+
Zip file size: 458k
Opt-in Hound only adds 2 local script calls with 7k page weight. Less than 100 milliseconds of drag loaded in parallel with other assets. Very fast.
Our recent speed tests show SumoMe pop-up plugin adds 800k of page weight globally (site drag) and 1.7 seconds of assets loaded in parallel with 20 HTTP requests. Avoid this slow plugin! Active installs: 100,000+, zip file size: 1.6M.
Also, have you noticed just how many websites desperately want you to sign up for their newsletter? … this is also super popular with retailers. From Barnes & Noble to Aritzia, Fluevog to Linus Bicycles, these things are seemingly everywhere. Get a nominal coupon in exchange for being sent an email you won’t read every day until forever — I don’t think so.