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Popup signup forms and how to optimize them

I mean honestly, who doesn’t know popups? They occur everywhere on the web and they range from insanely annoying to intriguing. 

If you have a webshop, a blog, or any type of channel, then you most likely thought about using popups. 

The stats all universally show that popups work, at least if you put some thought into them. You can find lots of free templates online and often email marketing services offer them as well.

already after 2 seconds, the eyes are searching for the ‘close popup’.

But what should you focus on? There are just so many factors that you can tweak:

  • Timing
  • Copy
  • Imagery
  • Offer
  • Call to action (CTA)

Today we’re going to look collectively at the copy, imagery, the offer, and the CTA.

Part of a previous project of ours with Coach, was also to see how we could improve their popup signup form.

Unfortunately, for the popup itself we did not have any numbers regarding its conversion rate. But we can be sure to analyse how people react to the form itself when it shows up and that’s exactly what we did.

This is the popup signup form that they used.

What did we do?

During our test, we showed the popup form to 100 testers. While the testers were viewing the popup form, we recorded their eye movements, their emotions, and their heart rate through their webcam.

We only showed the popup for 10 seconds, which is more than enough, if you think about how fast you click them away.

The great thing about these measures is that we can dissect the popup form fully. What did people look at and when? How did that part make them feel? Were they convinced by the copy, design, offer, CTA?

Answers to these questions provide great insight and leaps in optimisation.


Let’s start by looking at the summary results. How did all the testers ‘feel’ about what they saw?

You can see by the Valence, which is a simple positive/negative emotion score, that people didn’t seem too thrilled about the popup itself.

If we break it down into the most prevalent emotions present, we can see that Anger and Disgust are dominating.

This is already not great.

Emotion List

What led to these emotions?

Let’s check the heat map of the eye movements.

From this it looks like the headline itself has received most of the attention. Second in line, is the copy. Very little went into the signup fields themselves and the CTA was, compared to the headline, neglected.

What is quite telling about how the popup is received, is that the ‘x’ to close the popup received a substantial amount of attention.

Valence map

To know what exactly of the popup led to the emotions, let’s see what the Valence map says. It’s a combination of the eye movement heat map and the valence that we measured.


From the Valence map itself, it looks like the headline and the copy were not received very well. With the headline being received the worst.

Attention over time

As a last step, we looked at the pattern of eye movements over time. This can tell us what is looked at first and the following order of how the rest of the popup is perceived.

You can see that viewing starts out with the copy and the headline. What is very important to notice, is that already after 2 seconds, the eyes are searching for the ‘close popup’. 

That simply means that the message of the headline and the copy did not convince at all. They did the opposite, leading people to exit as fast as possible!

Conclusion and impact

From the results, we can directly see that the headline performs worst and the copy itself is a close second.

Looking at the content of these, the offer in itself is very generic and not directly coupled to an offer now.

In contrast: “receive a 30% discount on your next purchase.” Would directly couple the signup to something in return, now.

It further tries to generate fear of missing out, also known as FOMO. The problem is that because it isn’t coupled to something directly in return, it is not working well.

The CTA of the button is ignored, here though it most likely is driven by the headline and copy. Visitors are not bothering to look further if those are not compelling in the first place.

The headline itself is also a CTA, but it starts with “don’t”. It would be better to chose action rather than inaction in the phrasing. “Be the first to know” would be much better.

Finally, we have the design of the popup. It is very minimalistic, which isn’t bad in general. But Coach has a lot of engaging images. If that was coupled with a good offer, then the popup itself will improve substantially.