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This is for a web application, where the user is asked to accept the terms and conditions. Those license terms are displayed in a small window with the Accept button at the bottom. The full text does not fit the window, the user has to scroll down in order to read the full text. However on the Mac there is no visible scroll bar unless the user moves the mouse pointer over the text area. This means that a user may click "Accept" without reading the whole text or actually even knowing that this is not the whole text!

  • It this is a problem or considered a normal acceptable behavior?

  • If this slight ambiguity needs to be removed, what's the best way to handle it?

Some UIs won't enable the Accept button until the user has scrolled down the whole text, but we find this to be annoying.

What do experts recommend for this UI?

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Side note: I'd love to see a few bullet points summary of the most important stuff at the start of the licence. –  Alex Debkaliuk Jan 29 '13 at 21:18
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4 Answers 4

Yes, it is confusing, as you have no visual indicator that you have finished the document.

The legal issue it the real problem here. In a strict legal sense, you can not be considered to have agreed to part of a document that was hidden from you. This is like someone adding pages to the back of a page in a document that you did not know was there. It is part of the reason why you have to sign at the end of legal documents. Anything added after that signature is generally considered invalid unless also countersigned.

So while the UX is poor, doing this may put you in a situation where the agreement is unenforceable other than the small portion that was visible on the screen.

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Thanks, John. Much appreciated –  Jacques Gerber Jan 29 '13 at 16:41
    
The interesting question is whether you should show the Accept button as soon as the user has scrolled down a few lines. That proves that the user did, and therefore could scroll. –  MSalters Feb 5 '13 at 23:55
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This previous UX SE question on affordances for scrolling might be helpful. Maybe you could size the line-height and the window height so that half a line of text is visible as a visual clue that there's more to read. Or provide a link to a separate page with the full terms?

You'll have to ask a lawyer what's required to keep yourself from being legally liable, but FWIW I think OS X Lion users are used to not having visible bars. They can always re-enable scroll bars in their System Preferences. You can also force scrollbars to appear on Mac webkit browsers.

Of course, the best user experience would be to have concise, easy-to-understand, legally binding terms, but I think that's a little unrealistic :)

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Yes, it is confusing.

One simple workaround is to disable the accept button until they have scrolled through the document. Additionally, you could provide a hint such as "You must scroll through the document before you can accept the terms", or something to that effect.

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Lately some websites started to hide scrollbars and I think it's bad UX. Some may thing there's no more content to scroll, so they will be confused.

I suggest you to keep the scrollbar, as less computer iterate people are getting confused very easily when they see something they aren't used too.

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Can you offer any evidence to support your opinion? Thanks! –  3nafish May 5 '13 at 18:53
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