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Redesigning our SaaS, target audience is international. We have plans in t-shirt sizes. They are currently labeled:

  • XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL, XXXXL

Now, I like the size syntax from Tailwind and I wonder whether to change our plan sizes accordingly:

  • XS, SM, MD, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL

What's to be preferred and maybe why? I prefer the later, cause it's easier to parse for me.

I intentionally don't provide more context. Consider the description a requirement. There are 7, potentially even more different plans available. With three plans I likely would have picked 'S', 'M', 'L'. This is a 'vanity pricing', we are not selling actual t-shirts.

What do you think works better? What are the cultural challenges, possible misunderstandings? What are alternatives?

  • 1X, 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, 6X, 7X

Based on comments below I see this is hard to answer (correctly) in a general way and it highly depends on what kind of service or product is getting sold to whom and how that is integrated with overall pricing.

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    That 2nd list has an unusual item ("MD" - medium is almost invariably just "M") and, worse, and ambiguous one: Small is usually just "S", while S/M is quite common a small/medium for things that come in a smaller range of sizes. So what does SM mean? Small? Small/medium? There's also no simple L for large.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 8 at 16:32
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    @ChrisH Then again "sm" and "md" (in lowercase) have been used for screen size breakpoints since the days of Bootstrap. They combine them with "xxl" for their largest breakpoint by the way.
    – AndreKR
    Commented Feb 9 at 1:12
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    @AndreKR but I'm sure you'll agree that's much less likely to be familiar to the average user than the clothing sizing idea we're starting from. Even if those using this product are familiar with bootstrap, those paying for it probably aren't. BTW Bootstrap also uses "lg" for large - these are all good abbreviations for English speakers who want at least 2 characters in their size code
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 9 at 6:34
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    I don't know if this is a UX-Problem. Names for different plans are usually a marketing tool to get users to buy the most expensive plan in their budget. So it might be in the best interest of the marketing team that the amount of X is hard to count - because they want an emotional and not a rational decision. - If this is about a purely rational decision you should pick descriptive names like "5GB plan" or similar.
    – Falco
    Commented Feb 9 at 8:39
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    I would avoid "1X, 2X, 3X, 4X, 5X, 6X, 7X" unless 2X is double the amount of 1X and 7X is seven times that amount. The plans you are selling are not a linear progression, are they?
    – Bergi
    Commented Feb 9 at 14:05

5 Answers 5

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As mentioned in the comments, the ommission of the standard S, M and L in your proposed XS, SM, MD, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL does confuse things slightly. For example why is it XS and not XSM? Why not ditch shirt sizing all together at that point and use 1X, 2X, 3X, ... since XL sizes are the majority of what you offer?

I think you should either embrace the standard or don't, using two characters for the sake if it is less clear than just using the conventional

XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL

As mentioned in other answers, you're missing the opportunity to make the "Pro" tier sound more enticing, while removing any connotations that the plan name relates to sizes of things such as server-storage or bandwidth (or t-shirts). Tiering or banding also helps differentiate a step-up in product/service quality more than an ever-increasing X scale.

You could come up with whatever names you want for each band, and use +/- operators to show additional or missing features, such as

Basic, Basic+
Standard, Standard+, Standard++
Professional, Professional++

Or

Basic, Basic+
Standard-, Standard, Standard+
Professional, Professional+

In the context of these full names, which could be used where space is less of a constraint such as the feature list of what each level includes, you could use arbitrary abbreviations

Bsc, Bsc+, Std, Std+, Std++, Pro, Pro+
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  • Thanks for the suggestion. I asked it as general as possible, but I see that the right choice highly depends on the context. In our case, this is just an excerpt of a more complex pricing structure (b2b). There are simple presets that combine the individual components (php xs, mysql sm) to a standard preset. Also the sizes directly relate to specs (256 MB, 512 MB … but also other metrics). So it's not a matter of Pro to book that. The 1X, 2X … row is something to be considered. Commented Feb 9 at 10:09
  • @Frank Maybe asking with some specific examples might have yielded more applicable answers, maybe you actually want something more like 1A, 2Ai, 1Bi, 2C, 3C, or whatever where the letters or numbers or extra suffixes mean specific things relating to the plan options?
    – Wolfie
    Commented Feb 9 at 10:24
  • This is my first question on UX SE. My aim was to isolate a specific part of our pricing setup and ask a general question that might be useful to others as well. I learned about different perspectives here, but I also see that the right answer depends on the context. I am tempted to provide full context of our pricing structure, to get specific feedback. But again, I think that's not what this platform is about. Commented Feb 11 at 8:46
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Well depends on which size it is, since XXL and 2XL are not the same size(2XL is larger).

9.73 The Dawg: Why XXL and 2XL are not the same size

The Sun: People realising XXL and 2XL aren't the same size

I just grabbed the top 2 google results for "2XL vs XXL".

I agree with you that 2XL would be more readable than XXL (counting X's is annoying), but sadly you would probably get a lot of upset people complaining that the size isn't right.

Edit: since the shirts are apparently not going to be worn, I personally prefer the "2XL" system. Not only does it remove the need to read X's, the larger sizes all the way up to 9XL all take the same amount of physical space in the UI.

The ideal would be to allow users of the system to choose the formatting of the name.

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    Thank you for pointing this out. I clarified a bit. So we have 'vanity pricing', meaning that customers can not go shopping elsewhere for the same product in the same size. I would guess most people don't know about the difference of XXL and 2XL in t-shirt sizes. Yet it's good to know about it. Commented Feb 8 at 8:45
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    @FrankLämmer If you're not actually selling the shirts then I would just go for 2XL. I also find it easier to read (and it takes up the same physical space in the UI as 3XL, 4XL etc.). Commented Feb 8 at 8:50
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    "XXL and 2XL are not the same size." if that's real, that's typically really bad UX...
    – njzk2
    Commented Feb 8 at 19:51
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    People are talking about this XXL vs 2XL thing like it's a reliable standard, but it's just a convention that did not exist until recently. There's no reliable standard for sizing clothes.
    – barbecue
    Commented Feb 8 at 22:08
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    So, I kinda wonder if XXL is the same size as XXL either. Considering any differences between different manufactureres.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Feb 9 at 8:43
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If you have more than 4 or 5 sizes, don't use this system because it becomes confusing and unintuitive, especially for people who usually don't have to buy extra-large sizes.

If you have an international audience, also don't use this system, because clothing size names vary by country and language and this can easily lead to confusion.

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  • I am open for alternative suggestions. What would you propose? It should be short, easy to parse and understand. The t-shirt sizes are meant to be a metaphor. I hope people can plans from their own body size, but maybe that should also be considered. Commented Feb 9 at 6:50
  • Small and large shops that sell internationally absolutely use that system. Why is it suddenly not good anymore? Commented Feb 9 at 7:45
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Good UX should communicate as clearly as possible

So you should name stuff as explicit as possible. Your options should have descriptive names, which help the user decide. If your plans are mostly different on a single scalar value you can put that in the name: e.g. 5GB plan and 10GB plan. If your plans are tailored to specific audiences you can name them after the target audience: e.g. Indie-Developer and Enterprise-Plan

Effective marketing should result in optimal sales

Marketing not always has the goal of communicating as clearly as possible. Marketing usually wants to maximize (sustainable) sales. The naming should incentivize users to buy the most profitable option they are willing to afford. Often the most expensive/biggest option is the one most profitable for the company.

In this case you should keep conducting user studies and A/B testing to evaluate which naming results in the biggest sales (with acceptable user satisfaction) - and that could be XXXL or even premium plus

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    Another example: Videogames use a system similar to "Standard" "Deluxe" "Premium Deluxe". Commented Feb 9 at 8:53
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    If this was only about clear UX you probably would not even build plans, but rather let the user choose exactly what features they want and calculate a price for this combination of features. e.g. I want 12 GB bandwidth, 24/7 support, 99.99% uptime and 3 projects.
    – Falco
    Commented Feb 9 at 9:03
  • I agree to all of the points you made, but I am if unsure if that is an answer to the question :). As mentioned, the answer depends a lot on context. In our case, we have multiple components (PHP, MySQL …) which will come in the sizes. Sizes are kinda matching up with each other, but sometimes it's 512 MB of RAM and sometimes it's 5 GB of local disk storage. So using the core metric for the name would be confusing. Also that metric may change. There are presets (Start, Pro …) on top of that. Commented Feb 9 at 10:25
  • @FrankLämmer But in this case a core scalar value would still be more helpful than "2XL". If they are related you could take RAM or Cores of the central component. Or use some metric like "rated for 10.000 daily active users" to range the packets.
    – Falco
    Commented Feb 9 at 10:33
  • As mentioned above, my aim here was to ask an isolated question as much as possible and not get feedback on our individual, specific pricing. Something like '10.000 page views' would not work for us, since it will not apply to all plans of all components and it also can not be guaranteed. Commented Feb 11 at 8:49
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I think that both the 2XL and XXL variants are not a good fit for some reasons, but not all may apply, as no context is given what the differences between the plans is:

  • A Tshirt S and XL is the same thing, just for different people. Usually they have the same price. It doesn't translate that well into plans with increasing prize by size or different features by size.
  • If there are differences in features/functionality between plans that might not be intuitive as its just different sizes and users may think the only difference is user/document limits or something like that.
  • For a lot of people, choosing a bigger size carries negative emotions, and they may subconciouscly try to choose the smallest size possible, instead of sizing up (e.g. i choose between a XL and XXL shirt, choosing the XXL shirt i would accept that i have gained some weight, so i intentionally choose XL, even if it doesn't fit that well as it doesnt carry that much negative emotion)
  • People want to get excited about their purchase. If i choose between "basic" and "premium", i think i would rather pick premium just because the name sounds exciting. The same isn't true for L vs XL
  • The biggest plans should sound the most exciting. In your naming scheme they have very negative associations. a 5XL shirt is needed by very obese people which have a very negative image in society
  • It may take some time for people to make the brain connection that the plan names are named after tshirt sizes and "comprehend" the plan names

As silly as they often look, current common naming schemes like PRO, PLUS, PRO+, ELITE, PREMIUM,... are used for a reason. I get why your trying a more "logical" naming scheme with 7+ plans, to make it more transparent and less confusing. I think if i was in your shoes, i would like to challenge the notion why we need 7+plans. That makes it confusing, regardless of names. I think trying to cutting it down to 3-4 Plans with maybe some "add-on"s for increasing some limits and then using some more industry standard names, will yield you better results.

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  • I think you're overstating how much the potential negative connotations of large clothing would carry over to this usage. "T-shirt sizing" is being used as a name for this sort of labelling scheme, from what I can tell there won't be mention of actual physical shirts on the OP's site. If I bought an 3XL TV I'd be happy I have a huge TV, I'm not going to start thinking about obesity. I agree with your first two points.
    – Wolfie
    Commented Feb 9 at 8:48
  • I'm not sure if the negative connotations segment makes sense. Why would someone purposely buy a size too small just to feel like they're a lower weight? If anything they would buy bigger (which is a + considering the OP's use-case). Commented Feb 9 at 8:55
  • I can understand that that argument doesn't make sense for all people. But i've defenitly been in this position, let me rephrase it a bit, maybe it makes it clearer: I can choose between too tight XL and good fit XXL. I decide to buy XL because in my mind, i don't want to be a person wearing XXL, so i buy XL instead. And i'm arguing that such negative toughts can subconcious affect the plan choosing if their named similiar. If it's true for a lot of people, i dont know, but maybe it's a factor.
    – Yalla T.
    Commented Feb 9 at 10:16
  • Negative connotations (2XL = fat person): THANKS, I haven't seen it from that angle. 7+ plans: Imagine a view with three presets (Basic, Plus, Pro) and a button that takes you to advanced configuration (which this is about). Commented Feb 9 at 10:30

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