What are pop-ups? Definition, types, and examples

8 min

Popups are an internet staple. Controversial at the beginning, they quickly became an essential part of the ‘world wide web experience.’ They’re something you expect to, well, pop up once in a while in your browser window. Love them or hate them – popups are a tool that brings immense value, both for internet users and businesses.

What is a popup?

A popup is, usually, a small window or banner that appears in the foreground while browsing a website. The website’s visitor can then interact with this window, if, for example, the pop-up contains a signup/ contact form, a button, or a link.

Popups vary in content and in how/where/when they are shown, depending on their goal. We’ll get to pop-up types later in the article.

Example of an exit-intent popup on the GetResponse Blog.
Example of an exit-intent popup on the GetResponse Blog.

Pop-up, pop up, or popup?

Now that we’ve started with a definition, let’s talk answer the controversial question: is it ‘pop up,’ ‘pop-up,’ or ‘popup’?

‘Pop up’ is a verb that means ‘to appear suddenly.’

Pop-up is both an adjective as well as a noun and describes something that pops up. It’s also the ‘proper’ way to refer to website pop-ups and pop-up ads, but…

Popup is the most common and popular spelling you can encounter.

What is the purpose of popups?

The main purpose of a popup is to get users’ attention.

A popup is meant to be noticed – while many websites can be quite crowded, a smaller display area (or a full-screen window) with a distinct background image and an interesting message that suddenly appears on your computer screen is hard to miss.

Why are popups important?

As I mentioned before, popups bring value to users and marketers alike, so their presence is, truly, a win-win situation.

From the user’s perspective, popups can offer you an easy way to:

  • subscribe to a newsletter
  • go back to your shopping cart
  • register for a webinar
  • contact a business
  • get a discount code or free shipping
  • learn about a limited-time offer
  • get recommendations for products similar to what you already like
  • sign up for an exclusive gift (free ebook, etc.)
  • personalize your preferences.

For marketers and business owners, popups can help:

  • grow an email list
  • increase sales and conversions
  • promote content and webinars
  • reduce bounce rate
  • prevent cart abandonment
  • improve lead generation in the most effective way
  • increase traffic to a specific page
  • lengthen the time spent reading an article
  • encourage return customers
  • foster customer loyalty

And so much more!

You can reach these same goals by embedding signup forms/banners/promo codes/etc. on your page, but some situations just call for an eye-catching popup.

Read more: How to create a popup that converts

Most of these benefits are tied to the type of pop-up, so let’s talk about them!

Types of popups with examples

Pop-ups started out as a pretty much homogenous bunch – small (rather annoying) pop-up ad windows with a similar style of visual interface (often resembling a software error). Now, there’s a vast variety of pop-up types to choose from.

(Note: all of the pop-up examples below are GetResponse popup templates)

Types of popups by format

  • Bar popup

Bar popups, as the name suggests, are thin banners on top or on the bottom of a page. They can contain a short signup form, a countdown, a promo code, a call-to-action button, or social media links. Here are two examples of bar popup templates:

Example of a bar pop-up with a promo code on the top of a page.
Example of a bar pop-up with a promo code on the top of a page.
Example of a bar pop-up with a countdown on the bottom of a page.
Example of a bar pop-up with a countdown on the bottom of a page.
  • Pop-up box

Pop-up boxes are the most classic type of pop-up. The pop-up window is a box that appears in a predefined area, the center of the page. They are super versatile and easy to create.

Example of a pop-up box template.
Example of a pop-up box template.
  • Full-screen popup

Full-screen popups overlay the page fully and are truly impossible to miss.

Example of a full-screen popup.
Example of a full-screen popup.
  • Slide-in box

Slide-in boxes are much like pop-up boxes, but due to the fact that, by definition, they “slide in” while you browse, they’re a bit more discreet and less intrusive. They’re perfect for including forms, like signup, contact, or feedback forms.

Example of a slide-in box with a feedback form.

Types of popups by goal

  • Growing your list

These pop-ups’ key element is the signup form. Most commonly, the form has two fields – name and email. Within a pop-up like this, you can offer a lead magnet (like a free ebook, exclusive access, etc.) to encourage signups – the main goal is to make the visitor interested and decide to sign up.

A welcome popup with a short signup form.
A welcome popup with a short signup form.
  • Getting more sales

When it comes to getting more sales, nothing beats the ol’ limited-time offers and discounts. That’s why this type of popup is all about countdown timers and promo codes.

A popup with a countdown timer for a limited offer.
A popup with a countdown timer for a limited offer.
  • Staying connected, getting more followers, and getting feedback

This category of pop-ups is about connecting with your customers and visitors. A banner like this can include your social media links, a contact form, a feedback form, or a signup form to keep people in the loop.

Example of a popup with social media links.
Example of a popup with social media links.
Popup box with a contact form.
Popup box with a contact form.
  • Celebrating an occasion

Alongside your standard popups, there’s always space for seasonal or special-event popup ads. They’re especially important when you run an online store. Popups are super easy to create – that’s why you can create new designs whenever you have a new idea. Special occasion popup ads are ideal for limited-time offers.

Example of a seasonal popup with a special offer.
Example of a seasonal popup with a special offer.

Types of popups by timing and action trigger

  • Timed popups

They appear after a set amount of time, e.g., after the visitor spends more than 40 seconds on your page. It’s a great solution if you want to avoid annoying or scaring away newcomers, as they have time to get familiar with the site.

  • Scroll-based popups

In this instance, the popup appears after visitors get to a specific part of a page, or have scrolled through a set percentage of it. This type of trigger allows people to get comfortable with the article they’re reading and be more interested in the additional window that appears.

  • Exit-intent popups

Their main purpose is to win back people who try to leave your page. A popup like this pops up just as the visitor wants to close the browser tab or window and, therefore, it’s the last chance your website can grab attention.

  • Triggered by inactivity

A pop-up is triggered after the visitor stays inactive for a set amount of time – a perfect way to bring back their attention, get them unstuck, and lead them to the next action they should take.

Related articles:
15 spectacular popup examples and what makes them great
15 spectacular popup designs that bring results

Popup conditions

There are many ways in which popups can be customized, not only concerning their design, placement, and content. Every popup’s settings can be altered so that it appears only in specific instances to specific people. This way, they can be more targeted and less of an annoyance for loyal customers and users.

They can be ‘live’ indefinitely, scheduled to appear only in a certain time frame or once every few days.

They can pop up every time someone visits a website, or stop showing up if they’ve clicked a specific button, signed up through a form, closed the pop-up, or have seen it multiple times.

You can choose your pop-up’s target audience by choosing their country; choose whether the window should pop up on mobile, desktop, or all devices; choose if it’ll be visible only to newcomers, only to those who returned, or both.

Popups: pros and cons

There are countless ‘pros’ of pop-ups. They can do wonders for every company that has a website – everything from lead generation, through increasing sales, to reducing bounce rate.

Pop-ups are super cheap to create, and, if you find the right software, you can create a pop-up for free.

With the right pop-up creator, they’re also extremely easy to create and embed on your site – no need to write any complex javascript code or, thanks to templates, learn design.

The only con, however, is their historically controversial reputation. There is an old misconception, or rather a stereotype, that popups are a nuisance. This belief comes from the time when unwanted pop-ups used to be annoying by appearing suddenly, in bulk, and some people took advantage of their then-unfamiliarity to scam others.

Now that most of us know not to click on a shady-looking pop-up ad, and not to give out our credit card details when the popup’s message is “you won” or “your computer has been hacked,” popups have become less scary, and the scamming happens on a much smaller scale.

Well-meaning popups can still be annoying when their settings are… inconsiderate. For example, when there are too many popups on a site, and they still appear after the visitor has closed them multiple times before. These issues can also negatively affect the website’s ranking.

Related articles:
4 ways to make popups less annoying and more effective.
How to improve your lead capture forms in 5 steps.

Create your first pop-up for free

Now that you know what popups are and what they can do – why not try making one for yourself?

With GetResponse Free Popup Creator you can easily unleash your creativity in the drag-and-drop editor, attract your visitors’ attention at the right time, and convert!

Ada Durzyńska
Ada Durzyńska
Ada is a Content Marketing Specialist who is passionate about providing marketing knowledge and discovering its more human side. In a short time of 2 years she has swiftly gained experience and expertise in all things marketing, as she is already trusted as the GetResponse Blog editor — reading, analyzing and editing articles from hundreds of renowned authors to share them with everyone here. You can also hear from her in our weekly newsletter (subscribe, if you haven’t already!). If you have new content ideas or some blog feedback, Ada’s the person to connect with.