Weaponized UX/UI: Sniping your way to Higher Conversions

» 7 min read


By Timothy Bryan Hunold

My personal data is being held hostage

That’s it, I’ve had enough. Enough of stupid UI decisions, enough of attacking me just to buy a computer desk. Am I going to ditch a $900 desk I just bought from you because you just released a new desk, based on a browser push notification? Hell no. Then I get the EU-mandated cookie notice, and it takes up a full bar across the bottom of the page, followed by a pop-up for create an account for updates, that… are somehow different than push notices you are going to send to my browser? And then as I dismiss that and look at a product, another pop up that says if I sign up now, I can get 10% discounts and exclusive offers.

Then there is the pop-up to share/tweet/tell my friends about the moss-covered three-handled family credenza I am viewing, maybe they want it or want to buy it for me? The great thing about all of these is that they are transparent modals I have to explicitly click an obfuscated button or “x” to dismiss them. Then there are sites where I can’t actually even look at product without an account. If you do this, I wish a plague on you and your entire clan. So many places do this that I will literally never see your email even if it is 80% off.

There is a way out with the opt in

The opt in should be through a call to action, not a defensive wall. Users are likely to fake data when forced to create profiles. I do, my 70-year-old retired cop father does, strangers I speak to do as well. The information offered up is far more valuable than what is compulsory. If I like you and your products, I can, will and do fill out complete profiles. It has a drawback, seen below.

I opted in to the Amazon Treasure Truck text messages that hit me daily, but I have never bought anything. I look, but nothing I get in an email has ever prompted me to show up and buy. I get loads of tools from Harbor Freight, and get a 20% coupon sent monthly. I even have weekly emails before the weekend, and I have bought so much from them, I have run out of things to purchase. Newegg sends out deals, and I probably buy something from them every few emails.

The sites that required me to sign up and validate my email are so rare for me to shop from, that I am sure I have, but I can’t name one completed transaction.

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Lose a customer, gain an enemy

“I can tell you I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.” – Liam Neeson in Taken (2008)

I am an engineer, give me a problem I’ll build some solution. Personally, my browser is configured to kill pop-ups, modals and other overlays before they happen. I understand why someone may want to thrust all this stuff in a user’s face, but it is beyond terrible experience, it actually turns people away.

It is a problem with marketing and business strategy hubris

Users are increasingly suspicious of their data being sold to “partners” of sites. In offices all over the world marketing and product people are desperate to throw literally everything they can at a user in an all-out assault for calls to action, customer conversions and those that don’t buy, grabbing their emails just to preview the product to bombard them. They study heatmaps, look at numbers they do not understand in the slightest, all in a hail-Mary attempt to keep their jobs relevant.

We leveraged technology to create this monster

In the early days of the internet, things were terribly boring. Nobody paid any attention to anything but content and they were just happy for you to find their site in the pre-Yahoo and pre-Google days when you used the old crawlers like AltaVista. The web was as exciting as a collection of technical papers on microfiche.

Then we got images, followed by animated GIFs which, in proper combination, could crash your browser. It was the first direct attack on user experience for no good reason. Along the way we got the ability to style images, hide links in transparent images, and when JavaScript got on the scene, we got the hidden landmine to trigger other things happening.

JavaScript was the beginning of the age of chaos; allowing things like pop-ups and pop-unders and multiple windows to boost ad revenue and link-throughs. Hover on the wrong thing, pop up. Click on the wrong link, get a redirection loop before hitting your page that was probably wrapped in a frameset anyway.

Browsers got smarter, well kind of, they also became a buffet of terrible integrations that surface from time to time. From news readers to bookmarklets and now the pervasive return of a new type of pop ups, the subscription alert.

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If your call to action is not buy, you’re doing it wrong

Don’t do anything you would not want done to you on every experience in every app and site you use, no matter how miniscule. Make your customers want to join in a way that does not compete with content or product. It does not even matter if it is easy to sign up, it is if they are forced to or not.

What to do

Visitors are not going to become loyal in pre-sales. If I feel it is all about your agenda and not my pursuit of a product or service, you make me suspicious of your intentions. If I like that product, I’d maybe like to ask for an update on price drops a lot more than having to fill in an aggressive sign-up bonus pop-up.

The best experience is walking along and without doing anything, the product is in your cart, paid for, and you never break your stride to do “work”. Get as close to that as possible, the one click buy that didn’t sideline me with coming up with an 8-character mixed case, numbers and symbols secure password for a store that is not worth that level of security or waiting on an email validation that may never come or gets caught in spam filters. Shut up and take my money.

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Timothy Bryan Hunold

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