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  1. 1
    George Girton

    Terrible, rotten article. But I believed every word of it. So, now I must plan to get back to work on my visual and IA design. Thanks for posting it…I guess.

    Happy New Year!

  2. 2

    Having read the abstract (I downloaded the pdf for reading later) I was a little startled. After spending many hours this week working on copy with an editor, I am suprised to find how little users considered the aspects of privary, customer service, and correction of false information. However the use of design as a criteria to asses a site on seem pretty natural. After all we like regular shops to be clean and tidy why would we expect anything less from the web? As usual Christina you have provided something very useful, which is why I always seem to read your blog daily these days.

  3. 3

    The work coming out of the Stanford Persausive technology Group is really quite impressive and informative… these are the same folks that determined the people are less likely to trust a site’s content if they are running “whack a monkey” and “your computer may be infected” banner ads than ones that run lexus and other respected brand ads.

  4. 4

    One thing I wonder after having read a little more of this paper is, could we put more important issues in front of users in a way which could boost their confidence? So for example, as well as having a small link “Privacy” at the bottom of the page actually run some editorial content on how users’ privacy is protect in clear simple language. Would active promotion of how a site is protecting consumer interest put these key issue more into user focus and hence improve the web site’s standing with those consumers?

  5. 5
    Jared Spool

    In our research, almost every measurable attribute of site acceptance (credibility, professionalism, fun, satisfaction, worth returning to, perceived speed — to name a few of the 75 we measure) are highly correlated with whether the user completes their tasks on the site.

    Basically, what the users are telling us is: “You want us to trust your site? Make it obvious that you have thought about what I need.”


  6. 6
    Jared Spool

    Joe Grossberg wrote:

    And spending time looking for, reading, deciphering (from legalese to English) and considering the privacy policy worsens most users’ experience.

    Our testing hasn’t proven this to be true. In watching people shop for more than 880 products on 75 sites, we only saw users check the privacy policies twice. In both cases, they abandoned reading the policies because they were “too complicated”. In both cases, they ended up purchasing and rating the site quite positively.

    There is no indication to suggest that complicated privacy policies are problematic.

    Given that, I’d like to share an excerpt of my favorite privacy policy: Kmart.com

    We do not intentionally share your personally identifiable information, except: (a) with our ISP Service Partners (including start page and home page providers for the ISP Services); (b) with Kmart and our other corporate affiliates; (c) with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.; (d) with other companies with whom we have substantial strategic or marketing relationships (including our ISP Partners); (e) with companies to whom we outsource certain functions of our Website and the ISP Services ); (f) as required by law; and (g) in event of Kmart.com’s insolvency, with another entity in connection with the sale of Kmart.com assets.

    I don’t know what I like better: The fact that they don’t intentionally share the information (what do they do unintentionally) or the fact that Martha Stewart has free reign with the info or that, when you sum up all the clauses and take into account that Kmart recently declared bankruptcy, this policy doesn’t really protect much of anything.

    Kmart’s privacy policy is clear and readable, albeit a bit long. However, it doesn’t seem to offer any protections. It begs the question: is a clear policy that doesn’t offer protections better than a convoluted (or missing) policy that does?

  7. 7

    In my experience watching folks interact with privacy policies, it’s just the “what are you going to do with my email” that haunts folks. A few geekier folks, like ourselves, have deeper misgivings, but the general populace just doesn’t want spam. Remember these folks give credit cards on phones, or hand them to spurious looking waiters. There was an initial anxiety over giving a credit card in a new medium, but this is generally overcome with experience (or rather, societal experience— as people they know shop online, the reluctant ones grow brave.)

    So a short sentence along the line of we don’t sell your email, not do we mail you anything you haven’t asked for and you can always unsubscribe with a link to the privacy policy is usually enough. I’ve also noticed folks want to see there is a privacy policy, and they also don’t want to read it.

    I imagine jared’s got a much larger sample size than I, but I’ve been doing/observing long enough I feel comfortable sharing these observations.

    Just curious, George, what makes this article so terrible?

  8. 8

    Joe, I wonder if you have ever heard of the clariety mark. In the UK the plain english campaign (http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/) tries to get people to write important documents in language intelligable for the vast majority of the population. Things such as tax return forms etc to ensure that people have a chance of understanding them. That would go some way towards what I was thinking, but what I am suggesting is that by clearly promoting to users how you are protecting their interests you could raise customer trust. In regular shops people expect certain basic policies (such a 28 day refunds), but that doesn’t stop them from appreaciating it when a store is clearly bending over backwards to point out things they can do to help.

  9. 9

    This line in the article cracked me up.

    “We found a mismatch, as in other areas of life, between what people say is important and what they actually do”

    wow…no kidding.

  10. 10
    Jared Spool

    Joe: I worded my response wrong. When I said that we saw users check the privacy policy twice, it implies that each user checked the policy twice.

    What I meant was that out of all the site visits, we only saw two visits where the user actually checked the policy. And in both cases, it was ignored.

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