Best practices for designing Terms and Conditions/Customer Agreement Interactions

12 May 2010 - 12:49pm
4 years ago
11 replies
6198 reads
kbnova
2009

I'm looking for any research or information on best practices for designing interactions where users have to accept some legal terms and conditions.  For instance - what are the advantages/disadvantages of presenting terms to the side of the main form vs. below or in a pop-up?  Or - if the terms are going to be in a scrolling window, are there any guidelines about how big that window should be?  How many lines should show at once relative to length of the whole agreement?

Also, does anyone have any examples of sites that do their terms and conditions in innovative ways?

Comments

12 May 2010 - 2:30pm
Mike Dunn
2008

This would be a much more exciting topic if it were titled "Is there any way to make legalese jibber jabber more interesting and fun?" ;)

No, but seriously, it's usually such a barfing of content that most users rarely interact with (how many times have YOU read the fine print?) it almost feels like a cost/benefit decision. I'd say think about who IS going to typically go to that content and cater to that audience. I'm thinking they would likely want something no-frills and easy to copy/paste...

12 May 2010 - 3:50pm
Amy Silvers
2007

Making it printable helps too. I've heard that from users surprisingly often.

I don't have data to back this up, but I've always thought that pop-ups seem less obfuscatory than the typical tiny text box (display four lines then scroll) approach so often used in software EULAs. Even if the pop-up requires scrolling, it exposes more of the text than a text box will.

Also, if you divide the copy into logical sections, anchor links to each section at the top make it possible for those users who try to at least check the legal stuff to skip right to the sections that matter to them. A user who isn't concerned about the rules of conduct on the site may still care a lot about privacy and information sharing, for example.

I can't say I've ever seen a truly great presentation of legal information--that might be a contradiction in terms--but Google does a reasonably good job with their terms of use. Amazon uses the anchor link approach in a reasonably clear and comprehensible way for their privacy policy, though their conditions of use page is just a whole lot of text.

On Wed, May 12, 2010 at 4:28 PM, Mike Dunn wrote: > This would be a much more exciting topic if it were titled "Is there any way > to make legalese jibber jabber more interesting and fun?" ;) > > No, but seriously, it's usually such a barfing of content that most users > rarely interact with (how many times have YOU read the fine print?) it > almost feels like a cost/benefit decision. I'd say think about who IS going > to typically go to that content and cater to that audience. I'm thinking > they would likely want something no-frills and easy to copy/paste... > >

12 May 2010 - 2:55pm
Joshua Muskovitz
2008

It truly doesn't matter. People don't read them. GameStation (a retailer in the UK) determined this when they added their "immortal soul" clause to their T&C page, gaining them the rights to the souls of 7500 of their customers.

http://www.bit-tech.net/news/gaming/2010/04/15/gamestation-we-own-your-soul/1

16 May 2010 - 4:07am
gunnarandreassen
2010

Yeah, people just dont read them, content of these terms could easily be a mixture of your own special terms and templates/general terms.

12 May 2010 - 6:13pm
kbnova
2009

Speaking as the daughter of a lawyer, and thus someone who actually reads or at least skims Terms & Conditions a lot more often that the average user - the suggestions about using a larger pop-up area to present the text, making it printable, or at least easy to copy & paste all seem like good ideas to me.  Clear sections and anchor links to skip to specific sections also seems like a good call.

As I was looking around at some other sites, I found one implementation that I kind of like on PatientsLikeMe (http://www.patientslikeme.com/user/signup).  They let the user expand the full T&C within the main body of the page, which feels like it makes it a lot easier to read or even just skim than the typical tiny scroll window.  The one thing I don't like about their implementation is that the check box for "I have read . . ." stays up at the top of the T&C, so once you're done skimming, you have to scroll back up to the top to check it off.

In the broader sense though, I do realize almost no one ever reads the legalese as it is typically written today.  I would love to see UX professionals helping to champion simpler, shorter, terms and agreements that are actually helpful to users - similar to what Alan Siegel talks about in this TED talk:  http://www.ted.com/talks/alan_siegel_let_s_simplify_legal_jargon.html

12 May 2010 - 8:34pm
Alan James Salmoni
2008
Not sure if this adds to this discussion, but I did some testing a while back on T&Cs and found that customers preferred having to explicitly agree to legal conditions rather than just having them presented. Even just a checkbox saying, "I have read and accept these terms and conditions" made them feel more involved in the process (ie, we sought their agreement) rather than a passive recipient being told what to do. Few users actually read them but the data weren't powerful enough to extrapolate from - but users definitely liked being asked. It's one example of a less efficient interface providing a better user experience.
12 May 2010 - 11:20pm
mtumi
2004

You'll need to run it by your lawyers, who will probably end up nixing any substantial changes you might be mulling over.

I think splitting up the text into digestible chunks is an effective first step, and may be all you will get away with. Considering, as someone mentioned, people do not generally read them, they may not be worth the additional effort, depending on how perfect the rest of your application is.

Google does a good job of this: http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS

HTH -

Michael

On May 12, 2010, at 11:29 PM, Alan James Salmoni wrote:

> Not sure if this adds to this discussion, but I did some testing a while back on T&Cs and found that customers preferred having to explicitly agree to legal conditions rather than just having them presented. Even just a checkbox saying, "I have read and accept these terms and conditions" made them feel more involved in the process (ie, we sought their agreement) rather than a passive recipient being told what to do. Few users actually read them but the data weren't powerful enough to extrapolate from - but users definitely liked being asked. > > It's one example of a less efficient interface providing a better user experience. > >

17 May 2010 - 9:30am
Gail Swanson
2008

I'm dealing with this issue right now as I revise a currently odd interface. There seems to be a desire on the part of some stakeholders to force the user to actually read the document somehow but at the same time obfuscate it's contents by preventing them from printing it.  After watching a user struggle for  a few minutes to get past the existing agreement screen, it's imparative that I am successful here.

What I need are examples of SaaS yearly term agreement interfaces. Besides Salesforce.com, anyone have ideas?

17 May 2010 - 12:10pm
Dustin Kirk
2006

If you actually give a crap about communicating terms and conditions to users, you will want to think about the big picture.  That means designing the actual terms and conditions to be readable and presented in an elegant manner that doesn't turn people off.  


For a bit of inspiration, check out Alan Siegel's TED talk: Let's simplify legal jargon!http://www.ted.com/talks/alan_siegel_let_s_simplify_legal_jargon.html


On the other hand if you are simply going to display the plain text legalese that we are all familiar with, then you can simply hide it and get it as far out of view as possible so your users don't hate you for it.


-d-
On Mon, May 17, 2010 at 8:52 AM, Gail Swanson <gail_swanson@sbcglobal.net> wrote:

I'm dealing with this issue right now as I revise a currently odd interface. There seems to be a desire on the part of some stakeholders to force the user to actually read the document somehow but at the same time obfuscate it's contents by preventing them from printing it.  After watching a user struggle for  a few minutes to get past the existing agreement screen, it's imparative that I am successful here.

What I need are examples of SaaS yearly term agreement interfaces. Besides Salesforce.com, anyone have ideas?

(((P
2 Jun 2010 - 10:36am
Jakub Andrzejewski
2010

I'd like to refresh this topic:

The problem I'm facing now is how to evaluate 3 different approaches of presenting new Terms of Service to the users.

The site will soon be changing the ToS and they have some changes that we fear users might not like such as collecting data for statistic and marketing purposes or analyzing preferences and behavior. We want this process to be as seamless as possible with minimal amount of users not accepting new terms. Not accepting terms will prevent users from using the site.

Once new ToS is in place, a user will receive a popup (layer) window with a 3 screen process: 1 - benefits of new changes in the site, 2 - ToS screen  with checkboxes to accept elements of ToS that changed, 3 - confirmation of the acceptance.

The big question is how do you evaluate such simple process - do You think user tests and observation is a good way? How to create a realistic 'scenario'? How many users should be recruited to make well informed design decisions? Won't the unnatural environment of user testing skew the results?

Any thoughts, ideas?

Thanks,

/Jakub:)

2 Jun 2010 - 7:05pm
elvenmuse
2010

That's not design... that's legaleze, and one that border/goes to unethical territory.

> I'd like to refresh this topic: > > The problem I'm facing now is how to evaluate 3 different approaches of > presenting new Terms of Service to the users. > > The site will soon be changing the ToS and they have some changes that we > fear users might not like such as collecting data for statistic and > marketing > purposes or analyzing preferences and behavior. We want this process to be > as > seamless as possible with minimal amount of users not accepting new terms. > Not accepting terms will prevent users from using the site. > > Once new ToS is in place, a user will receive a popup (layer) window with > a 3 > screen process: 1 - benefits of new changes in the site, 2 - ToS screen  > with checkboxes to accept elements of ToS that changed, 3 - confirmation > of > the acceptance. > > The big question is how do you evaluate such simple process - do You think > user tests and observation is a good way? How to create a realistic > 'scenario'? How many users should be recruited to make well informed > design > decisions? Won't the unnatural environment of user testing skew the > results? > > Any thoughts, ideas? > > Thanks, > > /Jakub:) > > ((

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