I've been working recently on a project where it was inevitable at some point in the journey to show the Terms & Conditions, obviously never ending and text-heavy pages.
What a pain to design those pages, picturing already the poor user desperately searching for a 'Next' button to come out from that wordy scary mess.
They also look scary, don't they?
You always seem to have missed something important if you don't read them all, which it takes approximately 20-25 minutes for each page.
I did some researches on the Web and find out that others like me already asked the same questions:
- Is all of this text necessary? Yes
- Can the text be important for the user? Sometimes
- Is the user willing to read it? No
- Do we need to show it all? Yes
- Is there a way to improve those pages without skipping the legal requirements? Maybe
Here a little list to recap all the good practices and good examples that could be taken into consideration to improve the readability and usability of these pages.
1. Create a summary at the top
It is a good practice to just summarise what it will be explained in the page, to help the user focusing on the decision of reading or not the rest of the information. This might be helpful is the page contains severals sections and when it's extremely long.
2. Recap each section
That's a really good approach to consider for the optimisation of the content itself.
This example of 500px is a brilliant one. They explain with simple words what the long and wordy previous paragraph is about, helping the user scanning the element with a different formatting.
Also Pinterest used the same approach.
4. Don't force the reading
For legal reason, we need to show this information, and even if it looks very boring, it protects both the company which is providing the service and the user himself from regretting something in the future.
On the other hand, even if it's for good meaning, it's not recommended to force the users to read every single line, using interaction expedients like a final quizzes or a minimum time to leave the page.
This can really be annoying and in the end of the day, rather that have just a bored user, we will end up in having an angry one!
So meeting the legal requirements doesn't mean make the users necessarily read all the text, but surely it requires display it in the best way possible, making it easy to scan and highlighting the major points.
3. Use fewer controls
In this article on mobile design tips, Luke Wroblewski suggests reducing the number of controls in order to make the user skip some useless interaction (in the example below, the radio buttons).
There are other (and smarter) ways to obtain the same level of 'legal commitment' from the user (in this case, the agreement to the conditions) without making him do an 'empty' action on the page.
Here his example, which can be applied to the Desktop as well.
3. Make them less boring
Even if it's legal stuff, we can still make them a bit prettier.
It could be good and helpful to invest some time and improve the experience of this page in terms of:
- formatting. Fonts, lists, bars, here is the moment to use them in a smart way to give the page a bit of rhythm. More important are the titles and subtitles of the pages, which guide the user in the reading and help him in processing better the information.
- visual elements. Why not use them? In some cases, an image or an icon can help us explaining better the concept or the scenario we're describing.
- interactions. They can show better what the user needs to do to proceed and they can help him also in the reading action. Here some examples.
Fixed bar & scrolling - enable/disable CTA
Accordions - enable/ disable CTA
Anchor links in the summary
Hope to experiment more on these challenging pages in the future!