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  1. #1
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    Pop-ups, why not use them?

    Since every thread started by someone asking for coding help with pop-ups ends up being hijacked by the anti-popup crowd I thought I'd give you all the opportunity to vent on this thread. The Usability forum seemed the apprpopriate place for the discussion.

    How ironic would it be if someone came on this thread and asked for help coding one?

    So, explain the evil of popups here and then next time someone asks for coding help you can refer them to this thread using a link and their own help thread can stay useful and on-topic.
    It's 530 people, but do you really get it?
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  2. #2
    Chive On FFCus's Avatar
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    I'll start with the easy answer. Most, if not all, modern browsers have implemented a feature to block them from being displayed. Why would you employ a technique to display content that you're not even sure the visitor will see?

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    SitePoint Guru bronze trophy TheRaptor's Avatar
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    And if not blocked, there is the issue of tabs. Some browsers are choosing to open popups in tabs rather then new windows.

    But, the main issue with them is that they are extremely rude... I'm browsing a site and lets say I'm reading some content and three popups fly in my face, all of which I never asked for. My immediate action is to exit that site, never to return.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRaptor View Post
    I'm browsing a site and lets say I'm reading some content and three popups fly in my face, all of which I never asked for. My immediate action is to exit that site, never to return.
    First of all, who would use three popups? Not many people would, so your hypothetical situation is actually quite unlikely to occur. But, it does raise the interesting question of what content that 'you never asked for' might be there and isn't a problem for you? for example, Adsense ads may be on the site, you didn't ask for them but you probably don't mind them as much as a popup so what's the difference? Is it that you physically have to move the mouse to close a popup?

    Btw, congrats on your MoM

    Quote Originally Posted by FFCus View Post
    I'll start with the easy answer. Most, if not all, modern browsers have implemented a feature to block them from being displayed. Why would you employ a technique to display content that you're not even sure the visitor will see?
    To get the attention of the visitors who CAN see it. Browsers can block images, Jave Script, Direct X, cookies, and a whole bunch of other stuff so you can never be sure that all your visitors are seeing the same thing anyway. Why then should you regard popups any differently from all the other content that browsers can block?
    It's 530 people, but do you really get it?
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    SitePoint Guru bronze trophy TheRaptor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJMcClure View Post
    First of all, who would use three popups? Not many people would, so your hypothetical situation is actually quite unlikely to occur. But, it does raise the interesting question of what content that 'you never asked for' might be there and isn't a problem for you? for example, Adsense ads may be on the site, you didn't ask for them but you probably don't mind them as much as a popup so what's the difference? Is it that you physically have to move the mouse to close a popup?
    To address your first question, there are a handful sites I know of that do use three popups (some more then that). Netflix is a classic example. Most don't though because it's extremely counterintuitive.

    If I'm visiting your site, I am interested in your content so I don't have a problem with some Adsense ads or even a full fledged ad, what I do have a problem with is uninvited popups. I think my main gripe is that first, they pop up in my face (99.9% of the time, it's something I'm not interested in), then I have to take the time to close each popup. And for me that is an annoying waste of my time and alone is enough to throw me over the edge and cause me to close the site.

    There is hardly ever a reason to use them, when there are so many good lightbox solutions and the like out there.

    Off Topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by JJMcClure View Post
    Btw, congrats on your MoM
    Thanks! I see you've won one as well. We must be doing something right.

  6. #6
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    I find popups quite handy in certain situations. Say you are filling in a form and don't understand what to put in that field. Sometimes there's a link to click for more info, and it pops up over the page. I prefer this to being taken to another page, and possibly losing any data you've already entered.

    The main problem I see with popups is that they can easily be very inaccessible for some users. How does a blind person with a screen reader access the info in a popup, for example? I'm not saying they can't, as perhaps they can, but I think it's worth knowing what people in that situation will experience. What about someone using just a keyboard? Will they be able to get to the popup box to close it, or will it b stuck over the top of the page?

    These are issues worth considering, and they don't seem to be easy ones to solve well. I know plenty of people who just don't care about these issues, but surely to face them is to strive to do a job well; and one day, if these folks find themselves temporarily or permanently handicapped, they might suddenly start to care very much. It's a shame when that's what it takes for people to give a damn, though.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRaptor View Post
    I have to take the time to close each popup. And for me that is an annoying waste of my time and alone is enough to throw me over the edge and cause me to close the site
    So you've never clicked on the content of a popup because the offer interested you? Never signed up for a newsletter or anything?
    It's 530 people, but do you really get it?
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    SitePoint Guru bronze trophy TheRaptor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJMcClure View Post
    So you've never clicked on the content of a popup because the offer interested you? Never signed up for a newsletter or anything?
    I can honestly say I've never signed up for or clicked on anything in an uninvited popup.

  9. #9
    Chive On FFCus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJMcClure View Post
    Browsers can block images, Jave Script, Direct X, cookies, and a whole bunch of other stuff so you can never be sure that all your visitors are seeing the same thing anyway.
    Browsers do not block images, cookies, or JS default, but they do block popups by default. I take that as a very strong sign that the web browsing community has had enough of popups - and rightly so after they have been used in so many annoying ways by advertising networks.

    If a popup is necessary, I would only expect that it come as the direct result of a mouseclick and is not auto-launched when a page loads. However, as The Raptor said, many browsers handle them differently in tabs and with some pretty ugly results. I spend a great deal of time on my Android tablet. Pop-ups fail pretty bad on that...lightboxes do not.

  10. #10
    Mazel tov! bronze trophy kohoutek's Avatar
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    As pop-ups are blocked by default on my browser, I very rarely get unwanted pop-ups. When I do happen to chance upon a pop-up, then I'm fine with it as long as the pop-up is directly linked to the action I called and not merely related content, as anything could be labeled as such.

    For example, If I am on a page and click on a contact link and am presented a pop-up window containing the form I need to fill in, then I actually prefer that to being sent to a different page. If I click on a link contained within, say, a book review and then get a pop-up that displays books with related content I can buy, then I'm not all that keen about it, simply because that isn't the information I asked for.

    I don't have Javascript disabled and generally like being a witness to clever implementations developers/designers come up with, so I'd be a fool to browse without JS on my computer. If a pop-up implementation is simply well done and absolutely practical, then I'm fine with it. With that said, I realize that a JS pop-up with no fallback method can be an unwise design decision, depending on context.
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  11. #11
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Popups are blocked by default in my browser and where I do allow them they are set to open in place of the original page in the same browser tab. The only ones I generally allow are the ones from Sitepoint telling me I have a private message and since I find it annoying that a site should want to open a new page from that same site in a separate window I have it set to override the suggestion and replace the prior page instead.
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    Mouse catcher silver trophy Stevie D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJMcClure View Post
    So, explain the evil of popups here and then next time someone asks for coding help you can refer them to this thread using a link and their own help thread can stay useful and on-topic.
    Poor accessibility and usability. They've always been bad because they broke the regular browsing paradigm, but with the current crop of tabbed browsers and mobile browsers, they're oh so much worse. Even assuming the pop-up isn't blocked (which is like assuming it will be sunny in England in the summer), it's likely to appear as a regular tab (ie, full height and width of the window) rather than at the dimensions specified. That makes it even more likely that it will confuse people who don't understand why the back button isn't taking them back, or how to get rid of it. For people using assistive technology, the nature of the problem is the same but the outcome is many times worse.

    Quote Originally Posted by JJMcClure View Post
    But, it does raise the interesting question of what content that 'you never asked for' might be there and isn't a problem for you? for example, Adsense ads may be on the site, you didn't ask for them but you probably don't mind them as much as a popup so what's the difference? Is it that you physically have to move the mouse to close a popup?
    I would include unrequested lightboxes in the same category. When I arrive at a site and the first thing that greets me is a lightbox asking if I want to fill in a survey, or inviting me to take part in some free prize draw, my impression of the site plummets like a lemming going over Niagara Falls. With lead boots on. Anything that interrupts my reading and use of the page whether it's an unrequested pop-up, an unrequested lightbox or a badly placed on-page advert is an irritation that degrades my experience of the site, because it requires extra effort to do what I went onto the site to do.

    To get the attention of the visitors who CAN see it. Browsers can block images, Jave Script, Direct X, cookies, and a whole bunch of other stuff so you can never be sure that all your visitors are seeing the same thing anyway. Why then should you regard popups any differently from all the other content that browsers can block?
    Pop-up blockers are much more common than users blocking images or scripts, and are more likely to be switched on by default. But that's beside the point nothing critical should ever rely on images, Javascript, DirectX, cookies, Flash, the latest version of IE or any other random thing that people might or might not have. You should always ensure that your criticial content can be accessed as far as possible by a basic, bare bones browser reading the HTML and nothing else.

    Quote Originally Posted by JJMcClure View Post
    So you've never clicked on the content of a popup because the offer interested you? Never signed up for a newsletter or anything?
    I've clicked on pop-ups, lightboxes and other interferences by accident plenty of times. And you can guess what that does to my impression of the host website.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Stevie, you are ever so right.

    And now, for the ultimate question: Can anyone, anywhere, present a realistic use case, just one, in which a pop-up is the best solution to a given problem? I maintain that the answer is no.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Ankerstjerne View Post
    Can anyone, anywhere, present a realistic use case, just one, in which a pop-up is the best solution to a given problem? I maintain that the answer is no.
    The only situation I can think of where popping up a new browser window is actually required is where there is a web page link in an email and there is no web browser currently open. Then you need to pop up a web browser window in order to be able to view that web page.
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    Resident curmudgeon bronze trophy gary.turner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Ankerstjerne View Post
    Stevie, you are ever so right.

    And now, for the ultimate question: Can anyone, anywhere, present a realistic use case, just one, in which a pop-up is the best solution to a given problem? I maintain that the answer is no.
    I have found one class that I appreciate when done well. When viewing a catalog page, and I desire to see a larger view of the object, or a set of specs, a somewhat smaller than the browser pop-up is handy. I say smaller because I want to recognize its function. I want a graceful failover to a normal hyperlink.

    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    The only situation I can think of where popping up a new browser window is actually required is where there is a web page link in an email and there is no web browser currently open. Then you need to pop up a web browser window in order to be able to view that web page.
    I'm trying to remember when my default browser wasn't opened first thing, or at least immediately after a terminal and Emacs.

    cheers,

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    Chive On FFCus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRaptor View Post
    I can honestly say I've never signed up for or clicked on anything in an uninvited popup.
    I agree. In fact, I've become so quick to disregard anything in a popup since its usually a garbage ad that one could contain the winning lottery numbers and I wouldn't even notice.

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    Funny how this topic is in the Accessibility forum and no one wants to discuss this (although I guess usability is getting a run to some extent).
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  18. #18
    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    There is hardly ever a reason to use them, when there are so many good lightbox solutions and the like out there.
    Lightboxes are another reason I have Javascript disabled. They're slow and retarded and eat screen space for nothing but bull and crap. Put those two words together.

    Woe be the day when some HTML5 crap starts building those in so I can't block them, like they're doing now with autofocus and auto-fill in forms. Hate, hate, hate.

    How does a blind person with a screen reader access the info in a popup, for example?
    If it's built by the browser (like you get with actual new windows, alert() popups, etc), focus moves to it and it's announced. New users are probably confused but, new users are confused by everything anyway.

    There's a problem with HTML/CSS/JS-built modal dialogues though. This includes lightboxes. Unless you use Javascript to specifically move the focus over to the popup, the keyboard focus is still on the page underneath. I've tested the generic Lightbox2 that uses jQuery and while after clicking a thumbnail I *do* have the ability to use the keyboard to do things like next and prev image and closing the thing, my TAB remains on the page underneath. This breaks the rules of modals: user should have no access to the page underneath until some decision has been made in the modal (such as what happens with alert() and confirm() popups).
    Some people have been playing around with the new ARIA live regions but I haven't seen this actually work anywhere yet... application roles stole navigation and reading abilities, alertdialog was buggy everywhere, someone somewhere always broke...

    ...however I expect these will get ironed out and fixed eventually, and screen reader users will be the easier group to write for... everyone else will be the problem.

    Here's a bad example of a popup: when I tried to sign up for the Mobile Unconference, the sign-in form was in a popup... one that was much, much, much smaller than the form inside, and the morons apparently don't know how to allow scrolling without implementing 6 more scripts in the popup. Like, hello??? You need Javascript to create a scrollbar??? Since when?? Like many other people, I even missed the fact that the thing could scroll and hit the wrong button trying to submit. They used these stupid little frames to make it cute. After fullscreening the thing you finally realise what the hell they were doing. (Yeah, I was using my slutbrowser, Chrome, to fill this in... it's my "let everything in" browser where I do stuff where there are just hundreds of retarded scripts doing stuff HTTP should be doing).

    I guess it was "let's try to make things as DIFFICULT and BIZARRE as possible for users" day. Let's make sure it works so UNLIKE any NORMAL form that people screw it up a few times before they actually get it right.

    Oh, I know designers love trying goofy new things, but this is why they should all get chained down to a chair and forced to learn basic. freaking. usability. before being allowed to touch a keyboard. Oh wait, I mean mouse, these people only know how to use mice. ARG.


    And on that note, I agree 100% with JJ that it's kinda getting retarded whenever someone asks "how do I do popup type X?" that more than one response has to be mentioning how horrible the things are. One is probably enough, and if the OP already says "yeah I know people hate them" then I don't see where the benefit is of ranting further about them in that thread. (though, the latest thread, where the OP kept insisting that *his* popups were special and adorable and not annoying at all in any way, that just made me laugh really hard. Yeah right, bro)

    When someone says "I want to cut my own head off" and one person say "that will be painful and cause your death" and the OP says "Yeah but I really wanna, it's a science experiment" then we've done our job and now anyone who wants to explain to the poor sod how to cut his damn head off, do so. We're not required to spend 16 out of the 20 responses on how much it really sucks to have your head cut off, are we?

    If users hate popups, they'll do what the rest of us do: leave. They are usually on commercial and personal sites, not sites we're forced to use like our utilities, banks, and government sites (if they are, then we do get to spend 19 out of the 20 responses complaining about how much popups suck balls and bring Satan back to Earth and cause wee orphan children to contract cancerous forms of herpes, of course), so we generally have the option to leave.

    Authors *are* allowed to destroy their own sites, especially if they live in countries without any demands that they actually build accessibly and well.

    BTW: next site I get a retarded popup in, I'm actually going to spend time writing them an angry letter just so the site owners can enjoy my colourful language. After all, they asked for it, knowingly.

    *edit oh, I need to add a word to my post to make it complete:

    hitler

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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Stephen
    True, but that is akin to the user starting his browser, so I wouldn't really call it a pop-up.

    Gary
    This could also be implemented as a Javascript-driven fold-out (or lightbox, even though I personally dislike them, and suspect many with visual deficiencies find them hard to use). Implemented gracefully, of course, so that the information is displayed plainly on the page for those who doesn't have Javascript.

    Stomme
    I somewhat disagree, in that advise on how to find alternatives to a pop-up in the given situation should very definitely be given.
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    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    in that advise on how to find alternatives to a pop-up
    hundreds of times, ad nauseum?

    Once ought to be enough, unless that poster left out one of the many good reasons. Looking at the most recent thread on popups, though, it's a lot of repetition with vague hopes of converting the non-believer to the cause.

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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    True, that's a problem, but it still doesn't invalidate my original statement.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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    Resident curmudgeon bronze trophy gary.turner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C. Ankerstjerne View Post
    Gary
    This could also be implemented as a Javascript-driven fold-out (or lightbox, even though I personally dislike them, and suspect many with visual deficiencies find them hard to use). Implemented gracefully, of course, so that the information is displayed plainly on the page for those who doesn't have Javascript.
    There are a number of ways to show additional info. But the question was about having a rationale for the pop-up. My particular rationale in this example was that being a separate window, you could drag it to the side and continue in the primary page, even popping up additional windows for side by side study if desired. For my own browsing, I have even provided my own "pop-up" when the author didn't, by purposely opening an info link in a new window, and resizing it for convenience.

    As to lightboxes, I have yet to find a rationale, other than hypothesizing a designer's form of self-abuse.

    cheers,

    gary
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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    Side-by-side comparison should be natively implemented by the website, though. Why so few sites have this feature is beyond me.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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    <>In Soviet Russia, website codes you!

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    om nom nom nom Stomme poes's Avatar
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    but it still doesn't invalidate my original statement.
    I must be misunderstanding, because I read that you disagreed with my post because "there should be advice about avoiding them". However, my post has this. The difference is, it doesn't have it hundreds of times. One post warning of the dangers and misery of popups in a particular thread asking about them should be good enough. If the OP states they're already aware of the issues, but for whatever reason is going ahead anyway, then the wave of posts stating that they are bad is basically a waste of bytes.

  25. #25
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy C. Ankerstjerne's Avatar
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    I was referring to advise on how the specific problem is better solved without pop-ups, rather than simply warning against them.
    Christian Ankerstjerne
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