David Coveney

Don’t design in customer traps on your systems

You know that friend, the one who always promises to help you move flat, or help you fix your mower, but then doesn’t turn up? Yes. Or the guy who goes on a date and pays for the meal and somehow that comes with access to your body? Or the airline that makes you think you have to pay for a seat upgrade in order to take any baggage on board when actually you don’t?

The first two are obvious red flags. We all know people like this, and once we’re done excusing their behaviour we tend to move on. They’re often charming people at first. They have to be. They keep needing new friends and new partners, so they get really good at the introductory gab. But as I always say, the only perfect people in this world are people you don’t know very well yet.

To most of you I’m a suave, sophisticated man of the world. What? No? OK, well at least if you don’t know me I’m probably fairly mid. If I was on a charm offensive you might find me quite nice. Yet I snore, I go off on overly long rants about how a £70,000 car can have a misaligned number plate, and I walk into garage doors that I didn’t bother to put up all the way.

And so it is with companies. They’re often amazing at the introductory gabble. They’re smooth, funny on social media, and charming in their promises. But so many will let you down. Sometimes that’s your own fault. In a way, I kind of admire the Ryanair model because you actually know they’re going to play games and it’s out in the open. It’s a game! It’s a bit like that girl who you know is a heartbreaker but you’re gonna date her anyway because you’ll have fun for a while. Ryanair will be cheap. But sometimes you’re dealing with a business that should be well behaved, is very much business to business, and you’re thrown a curve ball.

Jabra’s survey

I have a Jabra headset I use for all my work meetings and honestly, it’s absolutely lovely. It’s clear, has good sound, and an excellent microphone. It’s also light enough that I can wear it all day long.

I also have the Jabra app, which is a bit annoying in needing frequent updates for something that does almost nothing. So when I saw a survey I thought I could give feedback on this, as well as the headset, so that they can improve.

I worked my way through the survey. It wasn’t especially long, but at the end, I couldn’t submit, because of this:

As you can see, the bit that says “I agree to terms and conditions and that Jabra, its parent company company can contact me by email or advertising…” is a mandatory field in the feedback form. So I’ve been asked to invest time in giving feedback yet here we go… in order to give that feedback there’s a price!

It’s like the Hotel California – it’s a classic case of social entrapment and a breach of the natural human social contract. Akin to being asked some questions at the supermarket then the surveyor saying “but if you don’t agree to let me stalk you, I’m throwing away everything you just told me.”

So I changed my address to one that included a tag* so that I could identify it as being from Jabra and submitted anyway. Because they need to know.

And you could say no sensible designer would build a survey like this. But it doesn’t matter. The survey was designed, even if by a person without the job title of “designer”. They were either careless, or cynical. I can’t be sure of which. And yes, my form entry was harsh. I was annoyed.

What do you think? Is it fair for companies to do this? Have you seen other examples that you’d like to share? Comments are open!

* many email platforms let you format an email with a + such as david+jabra@example.com, meaning you can see where your email went and block it easily if you wish to.

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