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What's the best way to make a user read terms and conditions before continuing a form?

Structure of Form:
Label1 [Textbox]
Label2 [Textbox]
Terms and Conditions [Textarea]
Checkbox ["I agree to the terms and conditions."]
Submit Button

The form has a requirement of checking off the checkbox "I agree to terms and conditions" before submitting the form. The goal is for the user to scroll to the bottom of Terms and Conditions text area before allowing them to check off "I agree to terms and conditions".

One option is to disable the checkbox until the user scrolls to the bottom of the Terms and Conditions textarea... but how what is the best way to tell the user they have to scroll in order to activate the checkbox?

Are there better options?

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4  
make it short and simple .. :) –  Mortalus Mar 6 '13 at 20:06
1  
That user scrolled all the way down does not mean he read it. :) The only real way to make them read it is (1) Add a quiz. (2) Make the terms real short. If then need to scroll you've probably lost the "get-em-to-read" battle already. You'll just satisfy yourself that they did scroll down. –  curious_cat Mar 11 '13 at 11:06
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3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

There is no reason to force a user to read the terms and conditions first. It is not a legal requirement and it doesn't improve the UX.

Don't do it.

Legally they simply have to agree to the terms and conditions, and if they choose not to read them, then that is their problem.

UX wise, what part of the experience are you trying to improve by doing this? Sure, make the terms and conditions more readable, and make them easy to find. But don't force someone to do something that has no benefit for them.


On the off chance that this has been handed down from some manager on high, and you have no say in the matter (stranger things have happened), I would follow the example set by Windows 98 (I never thought I would ever say that!).

  1. Make sure that it is clear to a user that they have to read to the bottom of the terms and conditions. Something like "You need to read to the bottom of these terms and conditions before you can continue".

  2. Make the "I agree" button active only when they have read to the bottom of the terms and conditions.

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While this is true that it does not improve UX, for some companies it may be important, e.g. due to legal requirements or their public picture. Apple AppStore is a great example here - whenever T&C change, user needs to go through the whole text (several pages, if memory serves) just to click "Agree" at the end. I believe there is more legal stuff here, but they also say by this "Look, we do care that our customers know the rules, so we play fair." Which doesn't change the fact that most people just scroll through it without reading. Ergo: it's not making them read, just an excuse. –  Dominik Oslizlo Mar 6 '13 at 22:19
    
@DominikOslizlo I just had Apple change their T&C and had to agree tonight. I did not have to read to the end, I just had to accept them. Reading to the end is not a legal requirement for any document, as long as you had the option to read to the end. –  JohnGB Mar 6 '13 at 22:45
    
That's what I'm saying, it's not actually "making users read", it's rather making sure that it looks like everything was done for the users to read it. T&C could be hidden behind a link to a separate view, so that some (perhaps many) users would not even go to this view. Yet, user needs to at least scroll through it to click "I agree" at the end. –  Dominik Oslizlo Mar 6 '13 at 22:53
    
@DominikOslizlo I did not have to scroll through anything with Apples T&C because scrolling to the end is not a legal requirement. –  JohnGB Mar 6 '13 at 22:59
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@JohnGB That's not the point I was trying to make. The point I was trying to make, is that the whole thing itself is pointless there. You are only presented the terms when you have already purchased the product. That AFAIK is void, and so, presenting those terms is useless. –  André Mar 7 '13 at 11:04
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I love this question! Here are some points you might want to consider:

1. Reading on a screen is hard and T&C's are often looong

That's the reason why people still prefer to print longer text and not read them on screens.

The shorter your text is the better chances are that the text will be read. Ideally users get a summary of the most important points and are given the option to read the full text if the want to.

Good article: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-little-do-users-read/

2. T&C are often written in legal jargon

Most users might not fully understand legal jargon. Why would I read something that I don't (fully) understand?

Using plain language/English might increase the number of people reading the T&C's

TED talk on legal jargon: http://www.ted.com/talks/alan_siegel_let_s_simplify_legal_jargon.html


Some examples and ressorces:


500px T&C with summary of the paragraph on the side:

500px T&C with summary of the paragraph on the side


Google T&C in plain English:

Google T&C in plain English

Related ux.stackexchange question: How to design usable web site terms & conditions?

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another not-so-horrible example is dropbox: dropbox.com/privacy, taken from digitaltrends.com/topic/terms-and-conditions –  Dvir Adler Mar 11 '13 at 9:01
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  • Make the Terms and Conditions [Textarea] scrollable and give it at least 200x200 pixels. Explanation: No need to go to other screen.

  • Make the Submit Button disabled until the user scroll down the terms. Explanation: You force him to scroll, so he will see the text. Also you can force him to scroll slow.

  • Make sure you split the terms to small paragraphs. Explanation: It's people lost interest if they see one block of text.

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While this is a good answer as such, you could add some explanations why you think this is a good way to handle it like that. You can just edit those into your answer, if you feel like adding some. –  kontur Mar 11 '13 at 7:56
    
Is 200x200 meant to be big or small? It sounds very narrow to me... –  AlexC Mar 14 '13 at 10:21
    
@AlexC thank I updated my answer to: 200x200 or more pixels. 200x200px is because it good for mobile. –  user80042 Mar 14 '13 at 10:45
    
That reminds me of a program I installed a few days before (don’t remember what exactly it was) where the whole EULA was within a ~300x50px box, i.e. smaller than the comment box here! Obviously you could never read it in there, so I just ignored its existence… –  poke Mar 14 '13 at 12:31
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