Policy Communication on Websites

Terms and Conditions Apply

Policies (most often presented as “Terms and Conditions”) are generally ignored by customers. I have conducted countless hours of user research only to find one person who speedread the T&C, while everyone elseTerms and conditions image - decorative just put the checkmark in the box (“I have carefully reviewed the Terms and Conditions”) without even clicking on the link.  Full disclosure: I do the same thing. And the speed reader wasn’t really reading it. This collective fiction is so bad that comedians make a living out of mocking it. Just check out James Veitch’s videos on TED talks.

Collective Fiction

We all know that nobody reads the legalese a.k.a. T&C. Besides the anecdotal evidence, there is academic research. According to Jonathan Obar and Anne Oeldorf-Hirsch’s research aptly titled “The biggest Lie on the Internet”, only 0.2 % of the people bother to actually read the text.

Only 0.2 % of people bother to read the Terms and Conditions before clicking on the I Agree button.

That is scary. Companies can do so much about our information, and we only get concerned about that in hindsight (see Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica controversy). You may wonder why that is.

  • Time. Obar says that reading terms and conditions would take us 40 minutes a day. 
  • Style. Most T & C require hard work to decipher. I used Spotify‘s terms and conditions to see how easy it is to read. Note the URL: https://www.spotify.com/us/legal/end-user-agreement/plain/. I added the emphasis on plain – so this is the PLAIN version. Let’s see how easy it is to read this “plain text”.

It is deemed “very difficult to read” and suited for”college graduate and above”. Mind you, this is for people with full cognitive abilities who are in a situation where they are able to focus. How often is that

Buying a Flight Ticket

Planning a trip is both exciting and stressful for most people.  There are so many pieces that have to work together, the time, money, everyone’s schedule, etc.

When designing for flight ticket purchase and the applicable, two things need to be considered.

  1. One the one hand, there are lots of complex regulations and terms and conditions when it comes to air transportation.
  2. On the other hand, nearly half of all Americans – 45 percent – flew aboard a commercial airliner last year, and, 81% have flown in their lifetime. Airlines serve a wide demographic, with all levels of literacy, booking tickets in all kinds of circumstances (not all of them quiet and conducive to paying attention. Not to mention the many non-native speakers.

In short, the challenge is to translate complex information into a simple interface.

This is the first iteration I created, using Sketch. UX design is problem-solving, so here is my problem-solving logic behind this graphic organizer.

  1. The cancellation policies change as time goes on – so the most accessible way to convey that information is through a timeline. The arrowhead also indicates the direction of time starting from purchase and ending in departure.
  2. Federal law mandates that flight companies offer a full refund within the first 24 hours from the time of purchase as long as the ticket was purchased in the US. This short window is indicated with the color “green”, a color associated with   “No problem, go”. The second segment is the “wait, there may be issues here, but it is not impossible”. Travelers can cancel their flight for a refund, but a cancellation fee will be deducted. The red section evokes the stop sign – unless it is an emergency situation, the airline company cannot accommodate refund or rescheduling requests.
  3. Red/Green colorblindness (deuteranopia) affects 6% of the male population. Channel redundancy (using more than one channel) is the safest bet to ensure that information is accessible to all users. So besides the visual segmentation of the timeline, I also experimented with using different graphic patterns to separate the segments of the timeline. The gray-scale version of graphic organizer provides a check that it is comprehensible without colors, too.


The colored and grey scale version of the same timeline. 

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