This is an excerpt from the upcoming “Android Design Patterns: Interaction Design Solutions for Developers” (Wiley, 2013) by Greg Nudelman
The first thing your customers see when they download and open your app is the welcome mat you roll out for them. Unfortunately, this welcome mat commonly contains unfriendly impediments to progress and engagement: End User License Agreements (EULAs). Like the overzealous zombie cross-breed between a lawyer and a customs agent, this antipattern requires multiple forms to be filled out in triplicate, while keeping the customers from enjoying the app they have so laboriously invested time and flash memory space to download. This article exposes the culprit and suggests a friendlier welcome strategy for your mobile apps.
Antipattern: End User License Agreements (EULAs)
When customers open a mobile website, they can often engage immediately. Ironically, the same information accessed through apps frequently requires agreeing to various EULAs, often accompanied by ingenious strategies that force customers to slow down. EULA is an antipattern.
When and Where It Shows Up
EULAs are typically shown to the customer when the application is first launched and before the person can use the app. Unfortunately, when they do show up, EULAs are also frequently accompanied by various interface devices designed to slow people down. Some EULAs require people to scroll or paginate to the end of a 20-page document of incomprehensible lawyer-speak before they allow access. Others purposefully slow people down with confirmation screens that require extra taps. Truly, things in a torture department have evolved nicely since the days of Spanish Inquisition!
Financial giant Chase provides a good example of a EULA. As shown in figure 1, when customers first download the Chase app, they are faced with having to accept a EULA even before they can log in.
Figure 1: EULA antipattern in Chase app.
What makes this example interesting, is that the same information is accessible on the mobile phone without needing to accept the EULA first: through the mobile web browser, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: There is no EULA on the Chase mobile website.
Why Avoid It
The remarkable thing is not that the EULA is required. Lawyers want to eat, too, so the EULAs are an important component of todayâ€™s modern litigious society. Dealing with a first-world bank in the â€œNew Normalâ€ pretty much guarantees that youâ€™ll be faced with signing some sort of a legal agreement at some point in the relationship. The issue is not the EULA itselfâ€”it is the thoughtlessness of the timing of the EULAâ€™s appearance.
The app has no idea if you have turned on the mobile access on or have your password set up properly. (Most people have at least a few issues with this.) Therefore, the app has no idea if the bank can serve you on this device. However, already, the bank managed to warn you that doing business on the mobile device is dangerous and foolhardy and, should you choose to be reckless enough to continue, the bank thereby has no reasonable choice but to relinquish any and all responsibility for the future of your money. This is hardly an excellent way to start a mature brand relationship.
What should happen instead? Well, the mobile website provides a clue. First, it shows what a customer can do without logging in, such as finding a local branch or an ATM. Next, the mobile site enables the customer to log in. Then the system determines the state of the EULA thatâ€™s on file. If (to paraphrase Eric Clapton in â€œThe Tales of Brave Ulyssesâ€) the customersâ€™ â€œnaked ears were tortured by the EULAâ€™s sweetly singingâ€ at some point in the past, greatâ€”no need to repeat the sheer awesomeness of the experience. If not, well, itâ€™s Lawyer Time. Consequently, if customers do not have Bill Pay turned on, for example, they donâ€™t need to sign a Bill Pay EULA at all, now do they? The point is that the first page customers get when they first launch your app is your welcome mat. Make sure yours actually says â€œWelcome.â€
Has anyone bothered asking, â€œHow many relationships (that end well) begin with a EULA anyway?â€ How would Internet feel if every website you navigated to first asked you to agree to a EULA, even before you could see what the site was about? That just does not happen. You navigate to a website and see awesome welcome content immediately. (Otherwise, you’d be out of there before you could spell E-U-L-A.) When you use a site to purchase something, you get a simple Agree and Proceed button with a nearby link to a EULA agreement (not that anyone ever bothers to read those things anyway, especially on mobile) and merely proceed on your way.
If you can surf the web happily, taking for granted the awesomeness of the smorgasbord of information on the mobile and desktop, without ever giving a second thought to the EULAs, why do you need to tolerate a welcome mat of thoughtless invasive agreements on a mobile app platform?
You can find 70 essential mobile and tablet design ideas and antipatterns in my new book, Android Design Patterns: Interaction Design Solutions for Developers (Wiley, 2013) now available for pre-order at http://AndroidDesignBook.com where you can also sign up for the next free monthly Android Design Question and Answer session.