Mobile First Sites: Flow vs. Interruptions

Mobile First Sites: Flow vs. Interruptions

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What do your visitors expect? Being able to quickly find relevant information to make a decision. That simple.
— Phil Chavanne, Snr SEO Consultant

In Parts I, II and III of our series on mobile-optimized websites (‘Mobile First Sites”), we covered the expectations laid on your mobile website by Google and your visitors. These include speed, ease of use (GUI), and information hierarchy.

In this Part IV, we will briefly cover the topic of obstructions and interruptions.

First, let’s circle back briefly to the purpose your visitors pursue when they land on your site.

Why Are They Here?

Unless you are running an ecommerce site, or your business pertains to an industry where visual content is a deciding factor (e.g. painters, hairdressers, jewelers, etc.) it is safe to assume that your visitors will only have a brief interaction with your site. On most websites we have optimized, or designed and built in the past 20 years, the average visit would last 2 to 4 minutes. Visitors would see 2 to 5 pages, and leave.

Your visitors’ main purpose when they come to your site is to get to the information they need, quickly. They won’t dwell much more than 90 seconds on any single page. They will form a general impression of your credibility, and make 1 decision out of 3 possible ones: (1) contact you for more information; (2)  make a note to return later, after seeing other similar sites or when they are more advanced in their decision process; (3) leave to never return.

no pop-ups on mobile first sites On average, returning visitor traffic represent 12% to 20% of your total visits. We have seen websites with 25% returning visitors, but these are rare cases among local businesses. Some popular restaurants fall into this category as diners may frequent them a couple times a month, and return to their site to order online or book a reservation.

Unless your business is a total star in your community, only 1% to 5% of people who visit your site will make contact with you.

In all, about 85% of your total visitor traffic will leave and never return, or only return years later when the need arises again. The question then becomes: “How do you make sure you don’t waste the opportunity” to get the 15% right now or on their immediate return.

Mobile First sites are designed from the ground up to take care of this issue.

Flow vs. Interruptions & Obstructions

The “greased chute” is an old technical term in mountain forestry that designates the trough along which logs are placed to toboggan their way from the high forest to the valley. Greasers were the people in charge of making sure the log chute would be greased enough that the logs would not jam along it.


greasing the log chute

Worker greasing the log chute – Photo courtesy of


The expression was appropriated by direct response copywriter Joe Sugarman, to describe the way good copywriting leads readers smoothly from the headline of the copy to the order form. To “grease the chute” is to help readers’ eyes and mind through the marketing copy, all the way to the purchasing decision.

In the newspapers world, just as in web design and in any visual medium engaged in marketing something, the path of least resistance offered to the viewer’s eyes is called the eyetrail. Design elements are positioned on the page or on the screen in a way that engages the eye to discover more of the content, poster, image, all the way to the call to action. The eyetrail of a web page is an element of the greased chute; it is not the totality of the greased chute.
Both terms relate to the same concept: flow. The opposites of flow are obstructions and interruptions. Both are impediments that bother or prevent your visitors to complete their intent.

      • Obstructions are impediments that slow down the flow
      • Interruptions are obstructions that stop the flow

The most infamous, most ubiquitous type of nasty interruptions on the web are pop-ups (called interstitials by advertising agencies). Pop-ups are probably the most hated interruptive contraption ever invented by man to disturb, bother, impede and stop flow. They are downright obnoxious, annoying, irritating… In one word, distasteful.

Pop-ups on mobile are even worse that on desktop because they tend to cover the entire viewport (the surface of your mobile device screen), and they are often difficult to get rid of (when the feature that closes them is hidden by some other elements of design, or when it is too small to be obvious).

These pop-ups are the hallmark of inexperienced web designers, who are either too lazy to test their client’s sites on various mobile devices, or just too dumb to realize that they are turning visitors off and away.

I hear some say: “You’re full of it. Pop-ups are good, we need to create an email list.” Oh yeah? Read on.

Do you see ANY of these pop-ups on NO. Don’t you think these guys know a few things about ecommerce?

One of the stupidest kind of pop-ups we see over and over is the “Newsletter Subscription” pop-up that opens up 5 seconds after you enter an ecommerce site. You haven’t had time to start looking at the products on display, the store immediately taps you for your email address. Really? This is as tasteful as going on a first date, and 5 minutes into it, asking your date if she/he’d care to sleep with you.

newslettter subscription pop-upPop-ups are downright nasty, but they are not the only obstructions and interruptions found on websites.

Examples of Interruption and obstructions on websites:

      • Heavy photos that take long to download on mobile sites (obstruction)
      • Buttons that are not easily clickable (obstruction)
      • Pages that don’t open (interruption)
      • Pages and links giving 404 —page not found— errors (interruption)
      • Survey requests appearing during the checkout process (interruption)
      • Ads embedded in the copy of a blog post (obstruction)
      • YouTube 6-second ads (interruption)
      • YouTube double-ads at the beginning of a new video (obstruction)
      • Ads at the beginning of a newscast on a mainstream media video feed (obstruction)
      • Subscription request preventing reading an article on the newspapers website (interruption)
      • Photos that move up and down the screen of a mobile device when you scroll down (obstruction)
      • Social media bookmarking icons that come over the side of the viewport on mobile devices (obstruction)
      • Etc, etc, etc…

There is no shortage of obstructions and interruptions on websites. The less you have on your site, the better the experience you offer your visitors.

Google Just Hates That Sh*t

Now, you didn’t think that Big G would let it slide when your antiquated mobile site rudely interrupts your visitors’ progress with a screen-wide pop-up?

In case you haven’t noticed (or been living under the proverbial rock), Goog is on a war path against mobile unfriendliness.

Google objects to pop-upsHere are some specific references published by Google against the use of pop-ups in mobile sites:

        • Some examples of malicious behavior include:
          Injecting new ads or pop-ups on pages, or swapping out existing ads on a webpage with different ads; or promoting or installing software that does so.

        • Try to avoid interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content. In some cases, these distracting elements may be picked up in the preview of your page, making the screenshots less attractive.

        • Step 1: Stop frustrating your customers
          • Remove cumbersome extra windows from all mobile user-agents | Google recommendationArticle
            • JavaScript pop-ups that can be difficult to close.

        • To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.
          Here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:

          • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
          • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.

Hard to justify the use of pop-ups on a mobile first site after reading these references… If you don’t get the hint, it’s time to buy a new pair of glasses or change your hearing aid.

How to Circumvent the Issue?

Building up a double opt-in email list is a good idea. Offering people to enter their mobile phone number to joint a VIP list benefiting from exclusive discounts is an absolute great idea. Getting people to follow your brand on social media, yes of course.

How do you make these opportunities known to people when you can’t rudely interrupt their visit on your mobile site with a nasty “Sign Up For Our Newsletter!” pop-up?

Glad you asked. May we suggest some possibilities?

12 ways to avoid nasty pop-ups and such obstructive/interruptive BS on your site:
Ways to avoid interruptions and obstructions on a website

      • Add a List Subscription item in your menu
      • Make a text-based offer with a clickable link inside your pages
      • Blend your offer with your copy, thereby achieving “flow”
      • Add your call-to-action at the end of the page or blog post
      • When people order, add the call-to-action in the email you send them
      • Add a field to type in an email address to get an additional discount inside your shopping cart
      • Add the call-to-action as a thank-you page right after the order is paid for in the checkout process
      • Offer it on your points of presence in social media
      • Add a discreet but visible “Follow Us” button inside your pages, in a non-obtrusive position
      • Slowly slide in a low-height “mat” at the bottom of a page, in a color contrasting with the background
      • Use an overlaid text message button such as the one offered by Leadferno
      • Add a “Quizz” or “Free Drawing” in your menu
      • Etc.

As you can see there is no shortage of design possibilities, and all of these are much, much, much better than loud, nasty interruptions.

A last advice from Google:

Help your site’s visitors to complete their objectives. They may want to be entertained by your blog posts, get your restaurant’s address, or check reviews on your products. Design your site to help make it easier for your customer to visit your site and complete a task.


The philosophy of Mobile First is to help your visitors have a great experience on your mobile site.
Don’t ruin this experience with nasty interruptions and irritating obstructions.
Instead, make sure everything flows. Grease the chute.


Free Independent Evaluation

Eden Ads is a full-service digital marketing agency in Tampa, FL. Our team offers qualified local businesses a unique opportunity to have their website and digital marketing/advertising campaigns fully evaluated under multiple aspects:



  • ROI of Google Ads campaigns
  • Finding where you waste money in your Google Ads campaigns
  • ROI of Facebook campaigns
  • Search engine position checks on your 2 or 3 main keywords
  • General SEO-readiness
  • Adequacy of mobile design
  • Google speed scoring of your mobile website
  • Alignment of your site with Mobile First Sites guidelines



This free independent evaluation can reveal weaknesses that hurt your site and prevent it to get to the top of search results. It can also highlights design issues blocking it from converting more visitors into leads. Call our web consultants today at (813) 940-5699 to request a free independent evaluation, and discuss your most pressing needs.

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