What we’re witnessing here is the first wave of the second world pop-up war. Those of us who lived through the first one can only describe the horrors to our disbelieving children. This time though, the pop-ups are winning because we don’t yet have the tools to fight back. The web has seemingly evolved into something that actively antagonises people — why would anyone in their right mind hide the content that visitors are there to see?
This kind of belief in numbers is exactly what got us into this mess. Analytics only tell you part of the story — if that’s all you bother to find out, and you have absolute faith in those numbers, then you’re going to end up putting a modal overlay on your site. Analytics will tell you that you got more “conversions”. Analytics will show you rising graphs and bigger numbers. You will show these to your boss or your client. They will falsely conclude that people love these modal overlays.
The other part of this is that often the people who are pushing the conversion numbers from the modals aren’t the same people who are creating the content that’s being masked by the those modals. And often the goals and definitions of a successful for those two groups of people are very different.