Wednesday, 21 September 2016

RIP, Intrusive Interstitials - Webpage Popups: Time of Death, January 10, 2017

If you’re the kind of web user that practically screams with frustration every time screen-covering popups appear…well, you’re certainly in good company. And as you probably know, it is even more infuriating when the same kinds of annoyances appear on a smartphone screen. You’d quite like to get rid of them, you do your best to hit the ‘X’ in the corner and you instead hit the popup itself and are whisked away.

Seriously…it doesn’t get much more frustrating.

Which is precisely why this will probably turn out to be one obituary that doesn’t exactly fill you with a sense of grief. Quite to the contrary in fact, as Google has announced that as of the beginning of next year, it is officially declaring war on ‘intrusive interstitials’ as far as mobile websites are concerned. The long and short of it being that just a few months from now, any websites continuing to bombard mobile visitors with these annoying interferences will face the wrath of the powers that be. Namely, a hefty punishment and the potential to plummet well and truly down the rankings.

Specifically, the time of death for intrusive interstitials has been pre-set for January 10, 2017, which is the date these penalties will start being handed out. In terms of why they have decided to turn their attention to these kinds of tactics, the statement from Google said that they “can be problematic on mobile devices where screens are often smaller.”

Something of an understatement, as those with devices boasting screens with less than 5 inches of real estate will know.

Now, if you have entered into something of a panic wondering whether or not you yourself will be in Google’s bad books, they’ve clarified things quite comprehensively. They’ve made it clear that “pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly” and have mapped out the rules as follows:

Pop-ups that cover the primary content of a web page the moment the visitor arrives.

Pop-ups that cover the primary content of a web page when the visitor moves from one internal page to another.

Standalone pop-ups that force the visitor to interact with them, before the page’s content can be accessed.

Still struggling to grasp it? No problem – here’s the diagram Google published to illustrate what not to do:

As for the kinds of interstitials that will still be permitted without punishment, Google gave the following guidelines:

Pop-ups that are necessary for legal reasons, such as those that inform about cookies, check the age of the user and so on.

Those that ask for login credentials to access the site or its content.

Pop-ups of a size that can be easily closed and do not cover the primary content of the page.

And here’s the diagram outlining how things should/can be done:

Technically speaking, it shouldn’t be an enormous undertaking to ensure that any mobile pop-ups you currently use abide by the new rules by the time they go live. In any case, those who don’t get their ships in order by January face the kinds of heavy penalties that may take some time to recover from.

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