Sneaky Opt-In UI

Opt-in UIs are all the rage in software these days.  With prices dropping, software vendors need you to opt-in to the stuff they know you don’t want so that they can stay in business.  It may be an opt-in for the company’s XYZ service, or it may be an opt-in for the company’s XYZ mailer, or it may be an opt-in to having your kidney donated to monkeys.  How do you get users to opt-in when you know they don’t want to?

Today I ran across a sneaky UI which does this very well!  It is a simple matter of mixing metaphors between checkboxes and radio buttons.  What happens if you display checkboxes to the user, but make them behave like radio buttons?

In typical user interfaces, when you offer a user a choice of something, you’ll use a “radio button”.  The user can select one item from the list, and the user knows that when they select one choice, it will automatically unselect the other choices.  It’s like the old multiple choice tests in school. For example:

    Would you like your burger:
    With Cheese
    Without Cheese

Similarly, checkboxes are used when you offer a user multiple choices, and the user can independently check off zero, one or many of the items they want. For example:

    What condiments would you like on your burger:

    What this tricky site did was to use checkboxes when it really needed a radio button.  This completely fools the user.  I saw the checkbox, clicked it, expecting it to uncheck, and then thought I must have miss-clicked when it didn’t uncheck.  Only by checking the second item in their list did the first uncheck!  Strange!

    This is pure-genius!  It is so easy for the user to click the checkbox, expecting it to uncheck, and then proceed. The company providing the site not only gets you opted in when you didn’t want to be, but it also has a plausible deniability if ever questioned on the matter!  (Oh, we thought this was a good UI.  The user can opt-out, see, just check that box…)

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