I'm having a hard time articulating to my team what doesn't sit right with me on this design. Here is one of our prototypes:

For one thing, the unsubscribe link is hidden until "found". On one hand it gives the overall design a better signal-to-noise ratio by not having tons of unsubscribe links in the array. On the other hand, this option has to be discovered by the user. I feel the whole experience is a balance between sacrificing findability to sacrificing real estate.

The design also lacks the ability to unsubscribe by bulk. In any case, my gut is telling me there's a more fundamental issue with this page I can't describe.

As to the icon, it's just temporary for now. That issue is for another forum.

There are probably a lot of questions in this post, but my main one is this: When is it okay to make actions strictly visible on finding them as they are in this design?

  • Whatever may be the other factors, discoverability is not for you in this particular case. Looking at the prototype from a user point of view, it is clear that you cannot hide the unsubscribe link. How you would implement visibility is quite another issue. If you still like some justification/ explanation, I may post an answer.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:16
  • Thanks, Kris. The initial logic here was that unsubscribing was not a primary function of this page. The primary functions were about consuming content via the feeds and being encouraged to add new ones. So it felt natural that unsubscribing and other management type actions were "in the background"
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:25
  • 1
    Why no "edit feeds" button? Android/iOS apps generally do this, see Google Currents
    – Zelda
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 16:41
  • Because unsubscribing from a feed is currently the only kind of modification to a feed that can be made, I wouldn't see the use of this now. But maybe I don't understand--do you mean a name change of the action?
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 17:53

3 Answers 3


A few things. The business's objective is to encourage the user to add new feeds. Since the content (of the feeds) will drive their motivation, the best you can do (without research) is to provide the tools for them to do so.

I've encountered this situation many times - where the business wants to "hide" or "make it difficult" for the user to perform an undesirable interaction. The fact is that the interface alone will not change the user's desire to unsubscribe just by coming to this page.

If they want to unsubscribe, give it to them because hiding the mechanism and assuming the user is going to find the unsub mechanism might lead to unintended consequences such as nobody being able to find it and then they flood the customer service number or inbox - creating another headache (separate topic).

Stakeholders tend to look at the interaction from a smaller frame of reference and this is where I tend to present the big picture to them and reference other consequences - "sure we can hide the unsub link but keep in mind that all of the utilitarian interactions on the page are housed in the upper right and the expectation might be to find the unsubscribe mechanism in a similar position".

Also, you were right when addressing the bulk unsub pattern but to do this you'll need to pull out the unsub link into a single button and add a Boolean selection option to each of the items (like a checkbox or toggle). Since you have no real research with your own users at this point, you might want to align with a known and understood pattern.

One last thing, hiding that unsub link made me immediately think of this as a dark pattern candidate and also it brought to mind a UI mistake common in the early days of design - "mystery meat navigation".

All in all though - your take it correct in noting that something just isn't right about this interaction.

  • Excellent points, although we're not interested in hiding anything to discourage using the function, we just think it's secondary. We predict more often users will be subscribing than unsubscribing. For this reason, we opted to make it convenient by placing the option accessibly on each element. However, we didn't want to split focus by having it always available.
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 17:40
  • For example, the iPhone keyboard hides itself when not in use. This does not mean that apple is discouraging using the keyboard.
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 17:40
  • "Since you have no real research with your own users at this point, you might want to align with a known and understood pattern." True.
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 17:43

Well, I partially understand your question, but you may look at the Gmail way of addressing Actions. They have a drop down ACTION link (treat it as a link) which for ex. "Reply" and will have set of related ACTION commands underneath it. It means that it has hidden the ACTION but also made people understand that there is more left underneath the "Reply" - which are all well hidden and laid out., Real estate space is saved. So I think unsubscribe can be clubbed with closer terms, such as people will know - there it lies, where somewhere affordance is created, and people would not get flummoxed or irritated in finding the relevant ACTION

  • That's a good point, especially since the hidden actions become visible when they're triggered by a relevant action (e.g. in mobile gmail, when you check one email, the actions dropdown menu appears--this is a set of actions relevant to the action just taken.)
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:48

A couple thoughts:

a) How many feeds do you expect a user to have? If it is not a huge amount, then does there need to be a bulk unsubscribe?

b) Could this all be solved with a master settings page where you have feeds in a list format? This seems like it would help, especially if there are more options than just unsubscribe, and also if there are lots of feeds.

My initial thought was "How does iPhone solve this with apps"? Maybe it's the way you have designed the page, but on the iPhone there is no unsubscribe/delete option available to delete apps, unless you know to hold down the home button. This seems like another situation where once a user needs this option they will look for the answer. If you can make that answer easy to find...

  • Having no user research available to back this up (site not launched), I'd guess among our active user base the number of subscribed feeds would average at around 3. However, I wouldn't be surprised if 10% of active users subscribed to ten or more feeds. For this reason we are considering do more of a table layout instead of a big picture array.
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:27
  • You've got some good points here. I think ultimately the "find new feeds" page should have the same LAF as the feeds management page (Btw, this prototype would basically function as a management page). In which case, a table-like format would certainly be a better option.
    – Adam Grant
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 15:29

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