From my experience whenever I have to install a piece of software I'm presented an end-user license agreement (EULA) in the following way:

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Specifically the EULA is a long text in legalese and I actually need to read that text - it governs under which conditions I can use the software. That long text is squeezed into a tiny textbox that is located on a windows with a non-adjustable border so I can't make the window larger and have a larger textbox - I have to either copy-paste the EULA into another program and read it there or read all the text through this tiny gun port.

Is there any reason behind this widely adopted and often replicated design?

  • 14
    I suspect it's because they know people don't really read them but they have to be shown by law. Doing it this way satisfies the law but minimises the impact on the user who doesn't really want to see it.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 9:38
  • I would say the box is not scrollable not because of the EULA... but because it contains the installation wizard. About the scroll... well it is obvious: they don't fit in the screen. Commented Jan 25, 2012 at 11:20
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    This is what happens when lawyers are introduced into the User Experience. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS.
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 20:06
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    It's a bit of both. Users don't want to read it. Lawyers don't want them to read it. But it has to be readable on some level to pass legal muster.
    – DA01
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 20:26
  • A bigger question is "why not have a plain language version?" I have seen some sites do it; I wish more did.
    – Taj Moore
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 21:08

6 Answers 6


Two words: Functional Obsolescence

That's usually a term used in Real Estate, but the general idea is that the Home (or in this case, the EULA box) is obsolete, but still functional.

For example, there are many better ways to provide an EULA interface, but over the years nobody wanted to take the time to enhance the EULA part of software registration or installation, especially since they know most people aren't going to take the time to read the entire thing. I mean, how many times do you read the iTunes EULA when you are updating to a new version?

Basically, it's become the defacto standard and nobody wants to put any effort into changing something people will only deal with one time.

  • "I mean, how many times do you read the iTunes EULA when you are updating to a new version?" I read it every time Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 22:04
  • I was hoping someone would reference that. That's exactly why I added that specific example. LOL.
    – eckenroed
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 22:23
  • To be accurate, Function Obsolescence means two things, the first is that the function of the property has become obsolete. The second is that the property is obsolete, but still has a little functionality.
    – eckenroed
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 17:30

The basic reason is because lots of EULA's are pretty huge and companies dont want users to spend time looking over the legal details of the application and just get down to it.

Further more as ChrisF said,most users dont bother to spend the time reading it and just want to get down to working with the application ,Here is an interesting article about PC Pitstop which offered $1000 to the first person who read their EULA in full and sent an email to an address in it.

Apparently it took four months before someone sent in an email


One of the reasons for putting this in a tiny box is because it is typically displayed in a window which is part of an installation process or install wizard. These dialog are always the same size and rather small. It would be weird to make an exception for the EULA windows as it would draw too much attention to it.

Let's face it. Even if these things would be physically easier to read, that would only make it harder as the legal blah-blah cannot be understood by Average Joe anyway.

Ps.: Some of those dialogs offer an option to print out the EULA, which offers in fact the best option to be able to physically read that stuff.


This convention probably originated in the days when 1. self-resizing windows were nonexistent and 2. people had tiny monitors. Making the EULA box bigger would mean the entire window would have to be bigger, which would waste space during the rest of the installer's steps.


I was once told (not sure this is true) that it was because you could then prove that the user had scrolled all the way to the bottom of the text which would "prove" that the user had read it! I am not totally convinced by this argument, but there was some Windows software which used to require you to scroll to the bottom before letting you accept the EULA.

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    an iPhone has that. You physically need to scroll all the way down before you can accept. Fortunately you only need to scroll down the first page, not all pages. Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 10:59
  • +1 for this answer. Our legal department just discussed this need with me as well - the need for a user to take two affirmative steps (i.e., scrolling and clicking accept. Apparently it's a legit answer. Certainly a related UX we've all seen is the "I understand what I have read" checkbox the user needs to click before hitting "Accept" as well - that's another way to have a 2-step verification. Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 0:05

Because it's difficult to fit most EULAs on one screen.


  • The display conventions were set at a time when high resolution screens were a rarity - in practical terms, space was (and often still is) at a premium.
  • UI/UX design teams have no incentive to show the EULA in more detail, because the EULA is functionally redundant (i.e. the process of reading the EULA does nothing to further the users actual experience, aims or goals with regard to the software package).
  • Most management and legal teams work on the basis that they are adhering to the precedent set by other corporations / software companies, so they have no incentive to change either.

It's worth considering that the tide is changing in some quarters. Google has recently changed the way they present their terms of use and privacy policy, aiming to simplify language used (e.g. removing legalese).

  • I'm serious - an EULA is usually very long. Commented Feb 5, 2012 at 20:48
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    This doesn't describe why they're located within small unadjustable containers within a page. Yes, there is a lot of content in an EULA, but there is also a lot of content in a Kindle book, but that isn't displayed in a tiny window; it's optimized to fit the screen real-estate as much as possible. EULA aren't, and that's what the question is regarding.
    – JonW
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:21
  • @Jon W; It does now. Commented Feb 18, 2012 at 13:17

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