Pop Goes the Weasel

Nah, Iím not about to go licking weasels with sticks, nor am I heading out to pawn my coat (depending on which version of the song you grew up with). Actually, Iím shaking my head. A much-hated but sometimes very effective feature of ebusiness, the pop-up, is going down.

It may not be doomed permanently, but itís in serious trouble. And if your Web site depends on pop-ups to communicate critical information to your visitors, you might want to spend some of the upcoming holiday time thinking up alternative strategies.

Most of us associate weasely pop-ups (or pop-unders) with annoying third party or self-promotional advertisements Ė exactly the sort of stuff we want less of on a daily basis. Iíd never heard someone say, ď@%#$, but it really irks me when online businesses put their shipping rates in a little pop-up window.Ē Thatís simply not the sort of thing you get worked up over. A business offers you an option to review its shipping charges, and it puts that information in a nice, small, separate window so you can still see your checkout page and know where you really are in the process.

Now it turns out, Iím one of the ones grumping, because with all the pop-up filtering going on these days through browsers, spyware, adware and search engines, lots of sites donít work as their makers intended. I canít get the shipping information from a business, because theyíve put it in a pop-up.

And thatís a pity. When used non-intrusively, pop-up technology can do a great job of smoothing the path to conversion. In fact, when the application is used non-intrusively, lots of folks blissfully donít even know they are dealing with a pop-up. They can view enlarged images or alternate views of the products they are looking at, read policies and assurances, get further details or definitions all via pop-ups. Handily. Painlessly.

Lots of folks are doing more than listening; they are offering information, linking to free scrub programs and building blocking mechanisms into their own technologies.

Earthlink provides pop-up blocking software to their millions of customers

AOL blocks pop-ups for their members

Mozilla has a built-in pop-up blocker

The Google ToolBar, downloaded by millions, blocks pop-ups

The Service pack for WinXP slated for release next year will block pop-ups

... and Yahoo! is launching a pop-up blocking toolbar.

I set a browser to block all ads and pop-ups, and I was amazed at how much information I could not get. Information I wanted to get! Pop-ups got blocked. Lots of ads on Web pages got blocked. And when a site would try to open up a whole new page in a full-sized window, it couldnít. Which actually could mean, depending on how your site has been coded, that the browser thinks your entire site, beyond the first page, is a pop-up!

Yeah, yeah Ö folks can reset preferences and allow pop-ups into our online experience. Some folks can do it with both hands tied behind their backs. Iím not happy banking on the chance that these folks are the only ones interested in doing business with me. Iím interested in Lowest Common Denominator applications. And the Lowest Common Denominator, in this case, is going to make life tough for pop-ups.

At the end of the day, itís a case of the crummy kid spoiling the sandbox experience for everyone. So grimace and get your new strategies ready. Or start looking around for a good weasel to pop!

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