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I always had a sort of a pet-peeve with mobile applications asking, out of the blue most of the time, for access to my Contacts, Calendar, Location etc. As far as I can figure, my reluctance in giving access came from the fact that I did not know why the application wanted to have access to that data. And now I am wondering if the conversion rates to accessing this information would be better if the app will first explain why it needs to access this information.

For example, I am planning to build an application that will at some point ask for Facebook access, location access, sending notifications, and maybe in the future make other such privacy demands. But I don't think it would be appropriate to just present on the first run of the application, 2-3 pop-ups which say This app wants to access your Location, wants to send you push notifications etc.

Instead, I'm thinking it would be better to explain inline why the app needs access (e.g. We do need access to your location in order to tell you when you are nearby a cafe you might like. Tap the button below to give the app access.), and then let the user tap a button or flip a switch which will trigger the this-app-wants-to-access-your-contacts-location-etc. pop-up to be shown.

My Question

Would it make more sense to first explain to users why they need to give us access and then when they tap a button, the application will pop-up the dialog box requesting that the application have access to Contacts, Calendar etc.?

Or is it safe to assume that most people know what they are getting into once they download an application, therefore the application can just directly ask for access?

Is there a recommended strategy to delivering pop-ups such as these?

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Depending on how swiftly it's executed, I can certainly imagine conversational explanations increasing conversion. Users like to feel like they're in control of their data. I don't have any articles "proving" this, but generally speaking, tool-tips and explanations are strong UX standards. –  Arman Aug 15 '13 at 18:21
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I believe there are different levels of personal information that users are more comfortable providing. If I'm using a map app to get directions, obviously it will need to know my location. However, gaining a user's Facebook access will need some explanation since it's more sensitive. –  Chris N. Aug 15 '13 at 18:31
    
Great article about this on medium: medium.com/on-startups/96fa4eb54f2c –  user46478 Apr 9 at 10:44
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2 Answers

I think for the most part, you are correct about the 2-step process. A well-known study in human-human communication showed that just using the word "because" gave people a greater chance of jumping forward in a queue than the exact same phrase/explanation without this word (reference: "Influence" by Robert Cialdini).

Sometimes, the "2-step" process is implicit: it is easier for an app like FourSquare to gain permission for location info because users know why it is necessary for this app. My thought is that when this information is unclear, you should explicitly state the reason (as you propose to do).

A second factor to take into account is trust. Especially with sharing phone contact details. Before you delve deeper into UI interactions on how to support / design for your users to accept such requests, trust is an obstacle you have to "solve" first.

Also, think of the experience when you have just downloaded an app: you're excited to start using it. Right now, your goal is not to give all sorts of permissions or leave reviews, you just want to "get started" (compare it to an "unpacking" experience: is anybody really waiting to fill in the "register your product now!" card at this moment?)

-- During this phase, everything your app should do is to support your user towards reaching this goal. So I would only ask for permissions when it is a functional requirement to use your product.

Other than this, what I really want to advise you to do is: ASK your (potential) users. UX problems are always very inviting to brainstorm about and a great challenge to think about solutions or "what would be best for our users", unfortunately, you will never really know until you go out there and do some research ;)

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Lazily ask for permission (if it's possible). That way can associate an action with a permission. When they want to load a photo, ask for access to the camera roll. Or when they try to share with a contact for the first time present the popup asking for permission.

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