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When having to offer a user the choice between a "free forever plan" and a paid subscription, which is the best approach to present the plans to the user, in order to make the paid subscription more attractive?

Please consider the following case to provide an answer:

In this example, the free plan is presented below the paid options. Will this make the users pick the paid versions more often? or will it just make them leave (in case they do want a free subscription)? Will it be better to add the free plan as an option (say, instead of bronze)? Are there any key components to add/avoid in order to improve the conversion?

Thanks in advance.

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I don't think that there is a definite best approach to this, or any UX decision making, for that matter. Usually, "the best" layout of information (and corresponding UI elements) for optimal conversion cab be determined via A/B testing, and many people advocate this approach. However, I personally consider focusing too much on these things a waste of time and effort that are much better spent on improving the product or service itself.

In regard to guessing users' potential reaction to "hiding" free option, it largely depends on the audience and their perceptions. I personally form a very negative perception toward a business that tries to "play games". Needless to say that it doesn't take long time for me to decide on leaving its site with miniscule possibility of return.

Therefore, I would highly recommend to be very clear about your offerings and presenting all options logically and transparently. In my opinion, such approach will earn trust of your visitors toward your business, dramatically increasing the probability of their conversion to leads and then, hopefully, to customers.

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Not based on any research, but I believe best way to show this will be comparative between free and paid options.

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I agree with @Aleksandr Blekh that A/B testing is the best choice to determine "the best UI". Guessing is meaningless.

However, I can give you some general suggestions:

  1. you have too many pricing plans for users. Generally, it's confusing and makes users give up making any decision. Having 3 options is basically a good idea.
  2. the plan you want to promote (GOLD plan) is not outstanding enough. Using a badge or a emotional icon would be better.

This blog 4 SIMPLE TIPS TO GET YOUR PRICING PAGES SELLING has some good insights and examples. I recommend you reading it.

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