Tag Archives: readability

abuse Blog contract Flash hacked information-architecture iphone navigation photo-sharing stock photos terms and conditions touchscreen Usability usability principles user-centered design user experience design webspam WiFi

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:

usable-legal-terms

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.

Thoughts on Blog Usability

DSC_0723 I’ve been kicking around the idea of redesigning my homepage and blog, though I’m not sure I really have the free time to do it. To start, I thought I would to put down a few thoughts about applying usability principles when designing blogs.

When you starting thinking about usability it’s temping to jump right into lists of principles and rules of thumb. It’s a little silly applying Fitt’s Law when you haven’t even established what you want your site to accomplish in the first place. So what, generally, do you want your blog to do?

Personal Goals

  • Share thoughts and work with others
  • Collect a body of work to represent myself (like a portfolio)
  • Collect information for later discovery (by myself and others)
  • Provide an outlet to continue practice writing
  • Allow others to communicate with me and comment

If you’re creating or redesigning a blog for a company, the goal set may be very different. Below are some examples that don’t actually apply in my case.

Business goals

  • Communicate with customers
  • Build long term relationships with customers
  • Produce quality content to drive search traffic
  • Generate revenue through advertising
  • Etc.

Many projects don’t even get this far before the graphic designers and web developers are already making mock-ups, but we still have one more important step to do. We know why you’re building a blog, but why are users coming to it?

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Usability and Design of WiFi Interstitial Pages

You’re out somewhere, maybe a coffee shop or an airport.  Suddenly, a man falls to the floor – you need to know – what’s the antidote for tricyclic antidepressants*?  You grab your laptop or mobile and use the local WiFi to look up the answer –

Only to be annoyed and inconvenienced by the interstitial “terms and conditions” page that the coffee shop and/or airport redirects your browser to.  Time is of the essence!  Why do they need a 2-minute flash animation to load an “I agree” button?

Thus ends my attempt to make a relatively boring subject seem interesting.  In any event, I can’t be the only person who’s noticed that WiFi login or “terms and conditions” pages are often way more complicated and annoying than they need to be.

In the hope that someone, somewhere will do a quick search before implementing one and come across this blog, here are some guidelines.  These all follow logically from supporting the user’s goal, which is to get info quickly, and the business’ goal, which is to attract and keep customers.

Do not require Flash, ActiveX, or god forbid Silverlight.  Nothing you could want to do here could possibly require it, and there are lots of WiFi-enabled mobile devices that don’t have it.  Do you really want to poke a finger in the eye of every customer with an iPhone?  If we’ve already bought iPhones,  we obviously like spending money!

Make the checkboxes / buttons large enough to click on a small device.  So that people with touchscreen PDAs, Blackberries, iPhones and G1’s will be able to touch it on their screens.

Make the page and any server-side code fast.  Stay out of the user’s way as much as possible.  If your code can’t accept a form and do some logging without dragging a user’s browsing session to a crawl, you need to go yell at your devs.

Once users agree to terms, save it in a cookie for a reasonable amount of time. Many mobile devices don’t allow programs to run in the background, which means session cookies can expire every time the device dozes off.

Once users agree, redirect them back to where they were trying to go.  And use a real, server-side http redirect too, not a fragile javascript redirect.  Many people set up their browsers to ignore those.

Make the legal terms and conditions as readable as possible.  Readability is an interesting topic, with lots of research into measurement formulas and the like.  I think we can all agree that an iframe with 1700 words of legalease is not readable or useful.  And while we’re at it, why not add some actually useful information, like bandwidth limits, disabled protocols, etc.  If you are blocking POP and IMAP, let me know so I don’t waste time trying to check my email.

While the crazy scenario at the beginning of the post isn’t very likely, this isn’t just a list of gripes.  Why are you providing WiFi if not as a service to customers or a way to differentiate?  Well, coffee shops with WiFi aren’t very unusual anymore, so you should look at it as part of the who customer experience.

* Why did I pick tricyclic antidepressants?  I did a Google search for poison antidotes and picked the first one with an antidote I thought you might be able to find, in a mad rush to save a beloved minor character’s life, like in a TV show.

EDIT:  thanks to Wysz for pointing out the massive numbers of typos.