How to Create a Lightbox Popup + 6 Ways Popups Win You More Leads

There’s a reason why cinemas and the theatre turn the lights out before a show. It’s the same reason that lightbox popups show up the way they do, on top of the page that you’re viewing and with a darkened background.

Care to take a guess why that is?

If you answered, “to grab the viewer’s attention,” you’re spot on.

Lightbox popups (also called modal popups) are one of the most effective ways to convert your website visitors into email subscribers and customers.

In this post, we’ll share 6 reasons why lightbox popups are the best at building your email list, delivering a targeted ad message, and converting subscribers into paying customers.

Let’s start with a closer look at OptinMonster’s lightbox popups.

Create a Lightbox Popup: Want to learn how to create a lightbox popup, step by step? Click here to jump to the tutorial!

What is a Lightbox Popup?

A lightbox popup is a web form that appears on top of the webpage that you are viewing. When it appears, the webpage is darkened in the background, so that the form stands out.


Lightbox popups are most commonly used for capturing email addresses. However, they can be used to display any call to action (such as, “Like us on Facebook” or “Use this coupon code at checkout“).

You may be wondering “what is lightbox and where does the term come from?” It’s a pretty neat analog-meets-digital story.

Lightboxes are signs that are lit up from behind, like this:

lightbox sign

Lightbox is also a JavaScript library that shows images and videos by filling the screen with them, then dimming whatever the images and videos don’t cover.

Exactly like a lightbox popup.

6 Reasons Why Lightbox Popups Capture More Emails

There are several reasons why lightbox popups capture more emails than a traditional email optin form, like the ones you’ll see in the sidebar of a blog.


For the record, we do recommend having a sidebar optin form like the one above because that’s where your biggest fans will look for it.

Related Content: How to Create a Sidebar Widget in WordPress to Get More Subscribers

However, if you don’t also have an email subscription popup installed on your site, then you’re potentially missing out on thousands of email subscribers. That is not so cool.

So, without further ado, here are the top 6 reasons why a lightbox popup is your best bet at capturing more emails.

1. Lightbox Popups Feature One, Clear Call to Action

Lightbox popups remove all other distractions, so there is only one, clear call to action in view on the page.

With a lightbox popup, the rest of the screen becomes darker and the user’s eye naturally goes to your message and the email signup form. This makes it perfectly clear what the user should do next.

Removing other distractions is important because having more choices is proven to have a negative effect on your conversions.

It sounds counterintuitive, but more choices aren’t better for your users. In fact, the more choices you give people, the less likely they are to take action. It’s called indecision paralysis.

And here’s the thing: even if they do ultimately make a decision, they’ll be less happy with that decision than if you had only given them one choice.

There’s a famous study with jars of jam that illustrates how the psychology of choice works. If you want to learn more about it, you can read about it here.

2. Lightbox Popups Are Eye-Catching

When your lightbox popup appears on the page (particularly if it uses an animation), your visitors won’t be able to help but take notice. In fact, they’re impossible to ignore.

using monstereffects on lightbox popup

That’s exactly why they work so well.

Visitors are compelled to focus on your call to action for at least the brief moment that it takes to either optin to your email list or close the lightbox popup.

Whenever people complain about popups, this is the reason they usually cite. But, this is also the reason that popups work so well to increase your email subscribers, and why the top brands all use popups on their sites.

That being said, there are ways to make your popups less intrusive. In fact, they don’t need to disturb your visitors at all because you can use them to make the user experience better.

The key is to personalize your popups and trigger them at the right moment, to the right visitors, with the right offer (see #3, #4 and #5 below).

3. Lightbox Popups Trigger at Just the Right Moment

If you use OptinMonster, you can control exactly when your lightbox popup will appear, to make sure that it triggers at just the right moment.

For example, you could set your popup to appear on the second page your visitor views. That way, you won’t disturb visitors who just landed on your site and are trying to get the one piece of information they were looking for.

On the other hand, if you’re an eCommerce store, you may want to trigger your popup after 5 seconds on the first page viewed, and offer visitors a discount on their order. This works because most people who visit your site are already there with the intent to buy, and they’re really happy to get a discount.

Here’s an example of a lightbox popup on page load that offers an exclusive discount to visitors who optin with their email address.

optin coupon

The key to deciding when to trigger your lightbox popup is to think about your user and their intent at the moment they’re browsing your site.

On their first page view, are they looking to purchase, or do they simply want to read your blog? Are they ready to optin to your email list by the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th pageview?

Visitors who have viewed 4 or more pages on your site are very interested in your content and offerings, so maybe you’d like to reward those engaged visitors by displaying a special offer just for them.

lightbox popup coupon-after-4-pageviews

No matter who your audience is or what type of website you have, you absolutely can’t go wrong by using a 2-step optin form with a lightbox popup.

Case Study: How Cosmetic Packaging Now Grew Their Email List by 754% with 2-Step Optins

These popups are only displayed to visitors who specifically request them by pressing a button first.

Here’s an example of a lightbox popup on click.

using monsterlinks to trigger a lightbox popup

These are one of the highest converting types of optins, particularly when you use them in combination with content upgrades.

4. Lightbox Popups Display an Interest-Based Offer

The other opportunity you have with OptinMonster is to increase your conversions by displaying a lightbox popup based on interest.

What would be the best offer for any user browsing your site?

If they’re browsing recipes, you could show them a cooking-related offer.

If, on the other hand, they’re browsing home improvement posts, you’d do better to show them an offer related to home decor.

Here’s an example from CountryLiving’s website. This popup appears to visitors who’ve viewed home improvement posts:

country living fullscreen exit popup

But if the visitor has viewed recipe posts, they’ll see this popup instead:

Country Living Exit Popup

With OptinMonster, lightbox popups can be set to be displayed on specific pages, posts, or even entire categories of posts on your site. Make the most of this opportunity by personalizing your offers based on what you know your visitors are interested in.

5. Lightbox Popups Are Personalized for Specific Visitors

OptinMonster also allows you to display lightbox popups only to specific visitors. This way, you can personalize your offers even further.

For instance, you could show your popup to visitors coming from a specific ad campaign. You know a lot about the people you target your ads to, so use that information when writing your popup copy.

Or, you could display popups to people visiting from a specific referrer, such as a popular publication you’ve just been featured in. This way, you can address those visitors by name (e.g. “Welcome, HuffPo Readers!”) and further increase your conversions.

welcome visitors from a referral site

6. Lightbox Popups Capture Abandoning Visitors

Did you know that 70% of visitors who abandon your site will never come back again?

In most cases, this means that 95%-98% of your marketing efforts are going to waste, and you’re losing money in customer acquisition costs.

However, lightbox popups triggered on exit-intent give those abandoning visitors one last chance to optin which can mean an additional 2-4% of your visitors converting into email subscribers (and customers soon after).

OptinMonster’s exit-intent® technology works by tracking the mouse movement of your visitor. When they gesture towards the top of the page, getting ready to close the window, the smart lightbox popup appears.

Here’s an example of a lightbox popup on exit intent.

exit-intent® popup

Note: The popup doesn’t prevent the user from leaving your website. They can close the window without interacting with the popup, which limits any annoyance factor.

Lightbox popups with exit-intent provide you one last interaction before a visitor leaves your site. In fact, it acts a lot like an additional page view. It’s important to remember you’re not bothering a user by offering something they may be interested in. You’re providing them the opportunity to receive emails from you and regularly receive content they enjoy.

In fact, Medstar Media saw their conversations increase by 500% when they implemented exit-intent lightbox popups.

To learn more about exit-intent lightboxes, check out 40 Exit Popup Hacks That Will Grow Your Subscribers and Revenue.

Lightbox Popup Case Studies

If you’re still skeptical of popups, you’ll probably be interested in proof that smart lightbox popups really work. Lucky for you we have tons of case studies.

Social Media Examiner Added 250,000 Email Subscribers

Social Media Examiner chose OptinMonster because it met all of the criteria they were looking for:

They started by adding an exit-intent® popup and immediately saw a huge boost in conversions.


When the case study was written, Social Media Examiner used 4 OptinMonster optins:

  1. A lightbox optin which displays shortly after visiting the site.
  2. An exit-intent® optin which displays when a user motions to exit the site.
  3. A slide-in optin which appears after the user has viewed a page more than five seconds, and scrolled 60% of the page.
  4. A mobile-specific optin that appears soon after visiting the site on a mobile device.

Before using OptinMonster, Social Media Examiner gained about 600 subscribers per day. Since switching to OptinMonster, they’re gaining about 1000 subscribers a day. That’s a 66% increase!

In the first year Social Media Examiner used OptinMonster, they added 62,000 subscribers to their list.

WebMechanix Recovered 1,281 Abandoning Visitors in One Month

WebMechanix, a web design agency, installed a lightbox popup on their client’s site using exit-intent®. They also used a 2-step optin, so that users need to click on the call to action button before the optin form appears.

CareOneCredit Lightbox popup empathizes with the reader

As a result, they saw a 13.076% increase in conversions in just the first month!

Do you like seeing what others have accomplished with OptinMonster? Check out our ever-growing collection of case studies to read more about the amazing results possible when using smart lightbox optin forms.

We understand that not everyone learns in the same way. That’s why we made this helpful video tutorial for our visual learners:

But you should continue to read our in-depth tutorial for the most comprehensive guide on how to build a lightbox popup.

Start by signing up for OptinMonster and logging into your OptinMonster account.

1. Create a Campaign

Login to your OptinMonster account and press the green Create Campaign button.


We’ll be using the  Lightbox Popup campaign type.

Choose a campaign template. For this tutorial, we’re using Simple.


Now, give your campaign a name. The name is for your use, so make it something that will be meaningful and memorable for you.

You can also add the website where you plan to use the campaign.


Press Start Building when you’re ready to create the campaign and go to the OptinMonster campaign builder. You’ll see a live preview of the default Simple campaign on the right-hand side of the builder.

2. Edit Your Campaign

To change the headline or body text anywhere in your campaign, just click on any element to open the editing tools. They open to the left of the campaign preview.


You can edit the appearance of any buttons by clicking on the button.


Once your campaign looks the way you want, you’re ready to set your display rules.

3. Set Display Rules

Display rules control when your campaign shows up on your site and who sees it. By default, the campaign is set to appear to all site visitors after 5 seconds.


Many of our customers have great success with exit-intent popups, so let’s change this to appear if exit detected.

Click Next Step to choose the Action. We’ll set the action to Show the campaign view that you want to appear (ours is the Optin view). At this point, click the green Save button in the upper right corner.

There’s so much you can do with OptinMonster’s display rules engine, from follow up campaigns to onsite retargeting, and more.

4. Setup Your Email Integration

When you click Add New Integration from the Integrations tab, you can select from our list of native integrations to connect with. Just choose your email service provider from the Email Provider dropdown.

We recommend Constant Contact because the platform offers a lightweight, user-friendly interface, but you’re welcome to check out our list of the best SMTP services or Mailchimp alternatives for more options.

5. Publish Your Lightbox Popup

When you create a new campaign, it’s Paused by default. Go to the Publish tab from the top menu to see the Publish Options.

Use the toggle to change the status to Live, then save your campaign by clicking the Save button in the top right of the builder.

Scroll down the Publish page to find OptinMonster’s broad range of publishing options. If you need more information, take a look at the documentation for embedding OptinMonster on your site.

Now you know exactly how to create a lightbox popup using OptinMonster!

Got WordPress?

OptinMonster works on any website, but our WordPress plugin makes it ridiculously easy to publish a WordPress lightbox popup. Once you’re ready to publish your lightbox popup on your WordPress site, go to your WordPress dashboard and click on the OptinMonster icon.

You should see a list of all your campaigns. If you don’t see the campaign you’ve just created, click Refresh Campaigns, and it’ll appear.

refresh optinmonster campaigns on wordpress

Click the Go Live button next to the campaign name to make the campaign live on your site.

click go live to activate campaign on wordpress site

That’s it! Your WordPress lightbox popup is live!

Capture More Emails Today With Lightbox Popups

No need to lose customers because of outdated practices. Lightbox popups are proven to work, especially with the use of smart triggers and visitor personalization.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to read this post, How to Use Popup Animation Effects for Eye-Catching Promotions. Or for even more popups, check out these 37 types of popups you can create to increase conversions!

Or, you may want to check out this post on eCommerce popup examples that actually work.

Get started with OptinMonster today and convert more website visitors into email subscribers and customers!

Jacinda Santora
Jacinda Santora is a writer specializing in eCommerce and growth marketing. She prides herself on her ability to make complicated things easier. When she isn't writing you can find her daydreaming about campervans, drinking coffee, and listening to podcasts.


  1. Thomas Griffin June 18, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for reading this article – I hope you found it helpful.

    I wanted to let you know about our powerful Exit Intent® technology that converts abandoning website visitors into email subscribers and customers. Typically 70% of the people who visit your website will leave and never return, meaning all those marketing efforts to reach them have gone to waste.

    OptinMonster’s Exit Intent® technology detects user behavior and prompts them with a targeted campaign at the precise moment they are about to leave.

    You can unlock this powerful technology 100% free when you purchase our OptinMonster Pro plan.

    Get started with OptinMonster today and see why 1,000,000+ choose OptinMonster to get more subscribers and customers.

    Thomas Griffin
    President of OptinMonster

  2. I still don’t get it…. why are newsletter subscriptions such a big deal to website owners? Most sites I go to are just a one off thing that I was looking for some quick info on a subject or a view on something. I have zero interest in ever coming back to them again, or getting a newsletter that has no relevance to me. And nowadays every website I go to is just begging, pleading, grabbing onto my ankles as I try to walk away to just please, please, pretty please sign up for my newsletter. Its starting to reek of desparation

    I find “exit-intent” is always giving false positives to me – I’m on a laptop, so my cursor movements are a bit more erratic.

    BTW, your exit intent popped up before I got to the bottom of the article, so I went and signed up for a newsletter…. hopefully you have a “catch-all” email on your domain 😉

    1. Mary Fernandez
      Mary Fernandez July 19, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      Hey Matt, you know, you are totally right. Most websites with popups do come off as desperate, largely because they can’t control who sees their popup and when.

      For example, when I land on a website for the first time, I don’t want to see an instant popup in my face because it gets in the way of the information I’m there to glean. I also hate those popups that have absolutely nothing to do with what I’m reading… If I’m reading a blog post about a particular topic, why are they offering me something completely unrelated? There is a tool now that allows you to target specific customer personas with a highly relevant offer, at the best possible moment (*cough* OptinMonster).

      But back to your original question on why newsletter subscriptions matter to website owners… There are many reasons, but here are three biggies:

      1. Email is still the #1 communication channel (91% of consumers check their email on a daily basis).

      2. You OWN your list, unlike social media platforms which can go away at any moment without prior notice.

      3. Email converts like crazy to nurture leads and turn them into paying customers. (Studies show people who buy products marketed through email spend 138% more than those who do not receive email offers. Another study shows email has an ROI of 3800%!)

      Hope that helps. Thanks for joining our newsletter, by the way. I guess our popup worked! 😉

    2. Matt — The real reason it is so valuable to collect these emails is because you can take that email list and upload it to Google adwords and Facebook ads: from there you can gather an obscene amount of (statistical — not individually identified) data about your customer group; you can also remarket to them, that is, target ads specifically to that group. When you’re on the sell side, the customers that sign up to get promos by email are some of the best repeat customers. Hope this helps.

  3. First, let me say that I agree ‘site conversions’ are important but not more important than quality and functionality.

    Yeah, no; nothing will get me to close a tab faster than a lightbox. You’re preventing people from reasonably accessing information of your website. This isn’t to your benefit unless the content isn’t very worthwhile (which if it’s not worthwhile then why publish, oh yeah: income).

    The main offenders are ones that lock you out: I will never sign up for a site where I can’t view its content without complying with its sign up lightbox; I’m looking at you, Pinterest. Luckily I know how to delete the node from the DOM tree.
    The next offensive lightboxes are ones that have the tiny encircled X that may or may not close the lightbox – probably not at all if you’re on a mobile device.
    The least offensive allows you to close the lightbox by clicking the translucent ‘fog’.

    Each one of the lightboxes I’ve experience leaves some amount of foul taste in my mouth, each one reduces the likeliness of me returning; all because it increased the time it took me to find the content I was surfing for. Stop breaking the Internet, marketers!

    It’s optimal to have site conversions come out of quality and functionality and not annoyance. If you have to rely on the latter, reconsider your platform.

    1. You should talk with Neil Patel about your issue. He’s one of the best online marketer’s I follow and uses pop-ups in different ways throughout his marketing process. (the Exit-Intent, the footer pop-up, the lightbox…)

      I’m interested to see what you do to have your site convert based on “quality and functionality.”

  4. “Each one of the lightboxes I’ve experience leaves some amount of foul taste in my mouth, each one reduces the likeliness of me returning; all because it increased the time it took me to find the content I was surfing for. Stop breaking the Internet, marketers!”

    Seriously? You are that impatient? Getting around a lightbox takes a single click, and if that is the price to pay for free, valuable content, so be it. I agree with Mary, that unfocused lightbox marketing can be a distraction, but it is really rare that it is SO distracting that I abandon a session and put that website on my personal blacklist. I think that is a bit of hyperbole. How about your favorite sites and blogs put up pay gates instead of collecting email addresses? Maybe that would “fix” the Internet. #sheesh

  5. I can’t stand them, and I’ve NEVER entered my email address into one. I already have more than enough unread email in my inbox, thank you. That being said, I deal if they’re easy to close ( though some of the “no, I don’t want to eat healthy. I want to die young!” nonsense you sometimes have to click to close them will send me away). It’s being unable to close them on my phone that always makes me leave the page. They really need to work better on mobile if people are going to continue to use them.

    1. Good point about mobile, Jen, this is how OptinMonster eliminates that issue. I also agree that condescending “no” buttons like that are totally counter productive!

  6. I have never signed up for a newsletter through a popup.
    Yes, people are impatient, and it’s partly because practically every site they visit today has some kind of an intrusive, obnoxious message: sign up for newsletter, allow us to send you push messages, like us on Facebook, follow us on… oh come on, it’s all about you, isn’t it?! Like a desperate salesman following a person on the street, nagging them to buy his stuff.
    I have links to social pages on my site but I’m not making them pop up in people’s faces. Anything but a pop-up, sticky bar at the bottom for example.

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall April 19, 2017 at 8:19 am

      It’s true that popups can suck, Ruby, but if they’re personalized, targeted and timed, they don’t have to be annoying. We wrote about that in 6 Reasons Why Pop-Ups, Welcome Gates and Slide-Ins Suck, and suggested ways to fix the worst annoyances.

  7. Is it possible to use a lightbox to pop up your search bar? i.e. if you have a large product range and people aren’t using the search bar, to bring it straight to their attention?

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall June 19, 2017 at 9:07 am

      You can do that with the Canvas theme or by using custom HTML, Ben. Please reach out to support if you need help getting this configured.

  8. As soon as I see a lightbox I instantly search a way to close it. In my opinion a lightbox is not a bad thing but most of the people/website owners don’t know how to use it effectively (as previously stated here in the comments) so it becomes a distraction. Too many lightboxes like this forced me too keep closing them as soon as I’ve seen them that it became an instant reflex . I hope people will learn how to master this powerful feature instead of making it a way to spam people. Cheers

    1. Sharon Hurley Hall November 10, 2017 at 5:04 am

      Yes, you definitely want to avoid that annoyance, Nikola. OptinMonster’s advanced targeting features like Exit Intent and page-level targeting can help site owners show their campaigns at precisely the right time.

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