You know the deal. You sign up to a site, receive a couple of emails and realise you no longer want to receive the drivel that hits your inbox. So you try and delete your account.

However when you try to do this the option isn't available or they make it so difficult it makes your blood boil! Is it right to do this?

Obviously you could argue that there is a business case but I personally think it leaves the user with a bad impression and they may never return.

  • 3
    "Always leave the cage door open and the bird will return" - Sean Connery (Rising Sun, 1993)
    – Harry
    Commented Apr 14, 2010 at 15:01
  • Works for Facebook. I have managed to delete my account though. Makes me feel like I won a battle! Commented May 5, 2011 at 16:24

8 Answers 8


AOL was notorious for making account cancellation a terrible task to perform.

Everything in your application should be a joy, including cancellation. Make sure they understand the consequences of actions you can not undo, but make it clear and fun. The moment of cancellation is an opportunity to show the user how awesome you are.

Don't make it hard to break up. Make it hard to stay away.


In the case of allowing users to unsubscribe from an email list, this is "a legal requirement in most jurisdictions" according to Suite101.

So, making it difficult or impossible to unsubscribe is definitely wrong.

In the case of account deletion, it's a task that'll only be performed once by the user and hopefully never as far as the business is concerned. So it seems fair to give it low prominence but not to make it unfindable.

Things that make users' blood boil tend to end up on forums. Not only will the user not return but potential customers may also be deterred and that can't be good for business.

  • Thanks Rob. I've come across aspects when you try and unsubscribe from an email list and still receive an email! With regards to account deletion, some sites couple low prominence and unfindable in the same bracket, forcing users to refer to the 'Help' section of a site - which must be frustrating. I understand that companies don't want to lose customers but there are better ways to keep or deter a customer from leaving than forcing them to jump through hurdles.
    – Chris Samms
    Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 10:45
  • I totally agree.
    – Rob
    Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 11:01

Robs' answer is a good one, plus the fact that for any action the user is allowed to perform, an equal and opposite action (ie. "Undo") must generally be available as well whenever it makes sens, regardless of company business objectives. Thus, if you can create an account, you should be able to delete it as well. I wish all sites offered the option, sigh.


As well as being bad practice, in business terms there's little/no benefit to be had by preventing an unsatisfied customer from terminating their relationship with you. After all, if the user has already reached the decision that he/she wants to delete their account then it's already too late to fix the problem (though it's probably worth including an optional "reasons for leaving" field)... so let the person leave with the minimum of fuss rather than making a bad problem worse. This also ties into Rob's point about forums / site reputation.

  • Plus point for the "reasons field". It can give a lot of insight why the customers/user was leaving the website. This can help a lot making the experience on the website better. And if the user was only missing some features then it could be that he even will come back when those features have been added.
    – Raffael Luthiger
    Commented Apr 17, 2010 at 23:32
  • I might even be tempted to add a "You have permission to retain my email address so that you can let me know if the issue(s) above get fixed" checkbox... ;)
    – MarcusT
    Commented Apr 19, 2010 at 15:42

One key cognitive bias that helps us this is the Peak-End-Rule.

It turns out that people judge their experiences based on how they where at their peak (good or bad) or how they end. This means that if the last interaction with a company is terrible then that user most likely will judge the entire experience with that company according to that.


It might make "sense" from a business or marketing point of view, but from a moral, legal and operational management point of view, if you have users that don't want to play anymore, you are actually better off without them.


I'd say a better solution is to give reasons to not delete your account – like Facebook does. It shows you pictures of your friends and says "[x] will miss you". I think account deactivation went down 7% when they implemented that feature.

But like you said, while there are ways to quantitatively measure the "success" of obscuring account removal in some way, you're not providing a great experience by doing it.


I cancelled a Lovefilm subscription aabout 10 years ago because they changed the envelopes and they no longer fit through my letter box and kept going missing. The cancellation and unsubscription process was such a pain in the neck that I refused to rejoin after moving to a house with a sensible sized letterbox despite wanting to, because I despised the company for making it so hard. A user leaving your site ma come back in the future if they don't have a negative experience.

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