This issue we all face it, some abuse it and some can't find a way to fix it.

The terms of service contain so much formal text in order to be recognized legally, we are aware that the user does not read it still we eventually enforce the users to sign their souls to the devil without having a clue of what they are doing.

i am looking for an effective approach for designing terms of service to ensure that users know or at least have a sufficient idea on what the heck is going on, for the sake of an example take a look at https://stackoverflow.com/legal/terms-of-service

How can we enable the users to be actually aware of what they are agreeing upon when accepting the terms of service?


5 Answers 5


The best format I've ever seen for Terms of Service was one where there were two columns.

The column on the left was a summary in simple language of each part. The column on the right was the actual ToS legalese.

As a result, I could quickly skim through the plain language summaries, and then consult the actual legalese where I wanted to be familiar with the precise terms for that part.

  • 2
    Couldn`t agree more. I even remember seeing one where they had in the left area some funny summaries like "This is the part where we sue you if you steal from us" , "This is the part where we take no responsability" etc. Great and funny.
    – Chris
    Nov 22, 2018 at 10:15

Write your ToS more simply. It might not be the full terms in legalese, just enough of a summary so they have an idea of what they're agreeing to.

It's one thing to try and read 5 pages of full legal speak, which outlines the terms in no ambiguous sense. It's another to read a list of a few bullets - if you harm yourself with our software we aren't liable, you can't copy this to a dozen friends, we have the right to shut down the servers anytime, and if you want to make money with our software you actually need to go purchase this license extra.

No matter how much work you try to put into it, if you provide a user with a full Terms of Service to read, they won't read it. What you can do is give a shorter list of more general, easily understood terms. They might not be water tight, so make sure the full version is available and that it's clear these are just a summary in plain English of the full terms.

See Terms of Service; Didn't Read for some good examples of how to present and summarize. You can't make a user read a bunch of legalese (they will get around any protections); you can provide a more intuitive reading, however.


The best way to accomplish this is to enforce the need for the user to scroll to the bottom of the ToS to enable the action button, and while the user scrolls, make the important bits highlight when they are in the viewport.


When I did leasing, I would walk through our contracts section-by-section and give a short explanation for each part. A lot of times this would lead them to asking questions that they otherwise wouldn't have ever thought about if they just breezed through the thing.

Following this format, a good ToS should have a summary in plain English for each subject and links to relevant FAQs. What's important is that the customer knows what they can and cannot do and that you don't waste their time with the minutia of legal-talk.


One way is to use the Fragment Dimming technique. It is a technique I used in a Quiz system in 2008 (Awhile ago!). The idea is to put important text first, highlight it and dim (grey out) the rest, with the ability to remove the dimming effect to see full text.

For the TOS case, I would Write a short bold text to sum a point and below it, I will dim the actual legal long text.

To save on space, you can hide not just dim part of the text. So you will summarise and highlight in plain language, then dim some part (2-3 lines maybe) then hide the rest, and provide a Show All option.

Sum, Dim, Hide

This screenshot is an example (2008 design):

enter image description here

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