I'm just curious how to go about this issue. I'm looking at an events site, where you can list the interest that you have in the initial sign up area. There are specific 'select all' and 'deselect all' buttons, but all options, eg "Gigs, Dance, Food, Drink, Exhibitions, Film, Fashion" are all selected by default, as they want users to see all content should they choose to skip this step.

Is this a good pattern, or does it go against the norm?

I have done some testing and the users who are being tested generally click to select their interests before realising it is a different pattern - however, the clients concern is that if the user skips this step then they will only see limited content.

2 Answers 2


A few things to consider:

  • As you may know Europe has its Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. While not related directly to the functionality in question (yet the reasons behind it do), many argue that it promotes opt-in rather than opt-out strategy; another legalisation prohibits pre-ticked boxes on shopping sites; And I think you should also read this blog. To me it seems imperative that you get the users' consent for any content you deliver to them; "Having all boxes ticked if the user skips the stage" is not exactly a consent.

  • If your users can't be bothered and choose to skip the step (and I can assure you that often this will happen without the users really paying attention to how the page works) you are practically cheating your users ("I haven't asked for it so why do I get it?"). You might just as well insert a clause into your site's T&C that says you own the users house. I think you should show consideration to your users, and not take advantage of those who have little time to spend on registration process.

  • As wootcat mentioned, your site clearly does not behave as users expect.

  • Shall you still not be convinced taking the opt-in route, you can experiment and see how many boxes users choose by average. Say the average is 3 out of 12, you are clearly making your users work hard. 11 out of 12, and you are probably better have them checked by default.

My suggestion would be that you have the boxes unticked by default. If the user choose to skip the step, you may wish to inform the user that they may be exposed to a limited content.

  • Thank you both. When I started testing this site I feared that this sign-up part was designed awkwardly - it is a really aesthetic design, but this pattern does actually go against there "the user is in control" mentality that they display so well in their privacy settings.
    – Dean
    Jul 10, 2013 at 6:46

I think you answered your own question. If users are clicking on interests and then finding the site is acting differently than they expect, then you should change the site to act how they expect.

It's almost always better to let users opt-in rather than opt-out.

Also ask yourself which is better; seeing only limited content or seeing a deluge of content they're not interested in?

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