In a site which, by law (or otherwise?), cannot display certain content in a particular geographic region, what's a good way to deal with this?

Hulu is pretty terrible (click here, seriously?):

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...but almost every one I've seen is along similar lines: a big splash screen saying that there's nothing for you here.

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    Is it really that horrible? Okay, 'click here' is a bit suboptimal, but the concept seems correct - there's no point the user continuing, so a splash page is appropriate as the error isn't localized to a single piece of content. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Feb 19 '13 at 10:31
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    There really is no good way to deal with it. You're annoying the user due to arbitrary socio-political borders. – DA01 Feb 21 '13 at 0:13

Whatever you do, telling someone that they can't access certain content is always going to be a poor experience. The only thing that you can really do to deflect the negative feeling is to explain why you can't show it.

"... due to US sanctions, we are not legally allowed to show this content in your country"
"Copyright agreements with XYZ publisher mean that we aren't allowed to ..."

The best that you can do is to give the person information so that they can understand why.

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  • The problem with this is that many such agreements are confidential, with severe penalties for a site operator that reveals their terms to the public. YouTube ran into this when GEMA complained about the wording of the notice displayed to German users when attempting to watch a video containing music. – Damian Yerrick May 19 '16 at 12:39
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    That may be a legal problem, but it's not a UX problem. If a site is legally forced to not show content and also not reveal why, then the site has to use poorer UX. – JohnGB May 21 '16 at 17:50

The ideal here would be progressive disclosure: only show the user functionality that they actually have access to. Then they don't feel ripped off by content they can't access because they never see it. (Even if they know it's there, it'll hurt their feelings less if it's not shown off.)

But in cases where content is frequently linked to directly, you can't really stop people from trying to navigate to the page. And when they get there, you have to show them something. I'd recommend:

  • confirmation of the region that's been detected, and a link to troubleshooting steps if it's not what the user expects
  • an on-page explanation of why the the content is blocked in that country
    • If you were really feeling zesty, you could provide a link for users to contact their government's officials to complain about their local legal restrictions (if relevant).
  • suggestions for alternative content (preferably matched by some kind of similarity engine) that is available in the detected region

The goal of these recommendations would be to anticipate users' needs contextual to your inability to show content. If a user sees a blocked-content page, what tasks will they want to accomplish in response? That's the functionality you should strive to provide.

And please, no click here links. That's a bit 1996, don't you think?

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    I disagree. Telling the user “this content is not for you” would be bad. Hiding the existence of the content would be even worse. At least, when I see the denial, I know what I miss, and I can act accordingly, I can decide to find the content elsewhere, or to forget it… If my friend in Australia sends me an address and tells me to watch “the third video”, we will be confused if I don't see the same list as my friend. And in this case we will lose trust in the site. – Nicolas Barbulesco Feb 20 '13 at 22:54
  • On the World Wide Web, this practice would be very bad. This would even be contrary to the Web standard invented by Tim Berners-Lee. A URL gives a resource, and the resource is not supposed to be tweaked depending on where the request comes from. – Nicolas Barbulesco Feb 20 '13 at 22:56
  • If most content comes from another country, this solution is ideal; going through dozens of links before you finally find one that works is a poor experience. – DistantEcho Feb 21 '13 at 10:50
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    @NicolasBarbulesco On the World Wide Web, 451 is an HTTP response status meaning "unavailable for legal reasons". – Damian Yerrick May 19 '16 at 12:42

I think the best approach is a friendly, subtle, and suggestive message that encourages the user to move past the unavailable content and on into the site.

Illustrations are a fantastic way to make this type of message more friendly, take Github's 404 page:


The key is to remember that even this point is a point to engage and communicate brand identity to the user. If they have to live without the content, why not leave them with a memorable, positive experience of the brand?

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Yes, there is a nice way to deal with geo-restriction : trash it.

Blocking content depending on the user's country has nothing to do on the World Wide Web. This is even contrary to the Web standard invented by Tim Berners-Lee. A URL gives a resource, and the resource is not supposed to be tweaked depending on where the request comes from.

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    in theory, yes, in reality, if my company were to get in legal ramifications due to content I provide to specific users, then you better believe I won't be providing it. – Nrgdallas Feb 21 '13 at 0:02
  • Are you trying to say "If it is blocked by law (error 451) in China, Germany, or Saudi Arabia, it ought to be blocked for everyone"? – Damian Yerrick May 19 '16 at 12:44

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