Tag Archives: legal documents

Atari contract Facebook Google iStockPhoto personal photo-sharing readability social networking stock photos terms and conditions Twitter Usability

Walking around with a time bomb in my gut

Normally I reserve this space for techie topics, feel free to skip this post if you’re not interested in personal blogging. Or skip to the end for two points about Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Three weeks ago I found out I had a time bomb in my gut. The timer on this metaphorical bomb wasn’t set to an exact hour, and there were no ominous red digits ticking down, but my viscera were rigged on a hair trigger. My gall bladder was filled with stones, and it was just a matter of time before they would be ejected, painfully squeezing down my bile duct. With luck they would jam their way through and into my duodenum, but some could back up into pancreas, causing pancreatitis, or create a blockage and infection, cholangitis.

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I Can Actually Understand This! Contract and Legal Document Usability

How many times a week do you agree to some endless block of legal terms and conditions in order to access a website or install some software? How often does your phone company, stock broker, or credit card company send you changes to some contract in the mail?

Of those, what percentage of the time do you actually read and understand the blobs of tiny print?

I logged in to iStockPhoto for the first time in a while and was confronted by a change to the artists’ agreement. I was shocked, absolutely flabbergasted, to find the document clear and easy to read. I’m not sure this has ever happened before. I actually understood what they were talking about. Here’s a screenshot:


A few pointers on how to construct a similarly user-friendly legal document:

  • Put a quick, “plain language” description at the top.
  • Highlight text changes by coloring the new sections and visibly crossing out the removed text.
  • Include convenient contact information at the bottom for further help and information. By convenient, I mean convenient for the reader, not convenient for your company.

Legal document usability is so bad at this point that I would advocate changing the law so that any terms document that didn’t meet the three point above would be automatically null and void. Kudos to iStockPhoto for getting it right.