Far too often at Brotherhood, we’re stuck in a world where we’re explaining why bending UX for ‘quick wins’ is a bad idea.
The idea that transparency might not sell is insane, seriously.
Heavily prompting or pulling the wool over your users’ eyes to generate revenue is just wrong, it creates friction.
Friction in user experience is terrible, because it quickly becomes frustration. The more frustration a user feels, the stronger their negative association with your product (and that sucks for your brand).
Unhappy users talk, and so do their friends.
Dark (less transparent) UX patterns are not only p*ssing off your users, but they’re slowly damaging your brand and (consequently) your revenue.
So here’s a few examples of why transparent UX sells, and why you should really avoid dark UX patterns.
Forced Continuity: Being forced to do something sucks, so help your users
Users shouldn’t EVER be forced to make a decision they’re not prepared to make, it’s why most SaaS companies offer free trials – because how can you know you’re ready to commit to a product, before you’ve tried it? (or at least seen a demo)
We’ve recently started using Narrow for Twitter. Before we subscribed, there’s a few things we were on the lookout for:
- Does the product do what we need it to do?
- Does it have the information we need to make the decision?
- Can we trial the full product before we buy it?
Narrow happily ticked the above boxes (though the information was slightly vague) and it offered us a free trial. Here we are two months later; happy and loyal users. However, had they not offered a credit cardless free trial, it might’ve been a different story.
One of the biggest triumphs from Narrow, is that after our free trial expired they didn’t force us to continue using their product or take payment. The product spoke for itself.
In some industries, the lack of transparency with forced continuity is really a killer (think Roach Motel).
When users can trial or subscribe, but they can’t unsubscribe without a fight, you create copious amounts of friction and pain, especially during what’s meant to be a ‘free’ trial.
In the case of Experian, they ask you to call a free phone number, to speak to their team to cancel your account. The worst part is, during the signup process, there’s no mention of this. Users are left completely in the dark until they’ve created an account and already committed to Experian’s service.
Only once you decide to look for an exit (or find that the product isn’t right for you) are you given notice that you’ll need to make a call. It’s sly and reflects poorly on both company and brand. Hoping users are too busy, frightened or even disheartened to call a customer service team to unsubscribe to a service, is a bad move.
The lack of transparency screams sales pitch, when in reality (at this stage) your product should sell itself.
Users shouldn’t be forced to make decisions or continue using a product because there are barriers to leaving.
- Give users the information they need to decide to use your product.
- Don’t fluff figures or awards, someone will find out.
- Offer free trials or demos so people can see what they’re buying into.
- Don’t take a user’s card details for a free trial (or at the very least email them before the free trial ends).
- If there’s a reason why you can’t do any of the above, explain that to users.
Feature block – really?
This can be done so well, but so wrong at the same time.
You find this a lot in the freemium space. Typically you’re sold the idea that you can use the product for free, and if you want additional premium features, you subscribe. Simple.
Feature block is transparent, but what features you block, why you’re blocking them and how you block them all contributes to how your users feel.
We’ll use online dating as an example here because it’s such a broad space, and there’s plenty of terrible feature block patterns.
Match.com is arguably one of the biggest online dating sites out there and from what we’ve seen, one of the heaviest advocates of feature block. Our beef with Match.com is that they don’t tell you just how much of their core service is sat behind a pay wall.
For a dating site, they don’t even let you send messages (or read them) without hitting you with the wall. You never really get to ‘trial’ the service and what you can do doesn’t merit the idea of a ‘free’ signup either.
Unfortunately, Match know that users seeking love WILL pay to find it. It’s why in this instance, they decide the better approach is to stop users using their service, until they part with cash.
Not only is this frustrating, but it’s not transparent at all. The signup process doesn’t tell users that they’ll be stuck (essentially doing nothing) and worst of all, it doesn’t let you trial the core functionality of the site at all.
A much more transparent example of UX in online dating comes from Bristlr.com. Currently, there’s only one paywall, but more importantly, the paywall doesn’t stop you from using the core functionality of the platform.
Obviously there’s a difference in scope between the two (with Match being a mammoth in the dating world) but that’s no excuse for a lack of transparency in their UX.
The core difference here is that users get to use and trial the product before they pay for any additional features. This means they get an actual sense of whether or not the product they’re using is right for them, or not.
We hear the argument “but if users are landing, trialling the product and leaving, that doesn’t help us” and we agree, but there’s something transparent about that data.
Either your product isn’t quite there yet, or you’re attracting the wrong users. Don’t mask your product’s flaw behind dark patterns and misleading UX.
Keep feature block transparent by:
- Telling users exactly what free means for your product.
- Show and tell users what the premium upgrade offers.
- Let users have access to the core functionality of your product.
- Make it clear what features are available and on what plan.
- Never play dirty with your users’ insecurities.
About the author
Thanks to Cassius Kiani, director of Brotherhood for this latest blog post. Brotherhood are a digital design studio based in Manchester, UK.
— Brotherhood (@BrotherhoodIO) November 5, 2015