End User License Agreement (EULA) Presentation

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This is an excerpt from the upcoming “Android Design Patterns: Interaction Design Solutions for Developers” (Wiley, 2013) by Greg Nudelman

The first thing your customers see when they download and open your app is the welcome mat you roll out for them. Unfortunately, this welcome mat commonly contains unfriendly impediments to progress and engagement: End User License Agreements (EULAs). Like the overzealous zombie cross-breed between a lawyer and a customs agent, this antipattern requires multiple forms to be filled out in triplicate, while keeping the customers from enjoying the app they have so laboriously invested time and flash memory space to download. This article exposes the culprit and suggests a friendlier welcome strategy for your mobile apps.

Antipattern: End User License Agreements (EULAs)

When customers open a mobile website, they can often engage immediately. Ironically, the same information accessed through apps frequently requires agreeing to various EULAs, often accompanied by ingenious strategies that force customers to slow down. EULA is an antipattern.

When and Where It Shows Up

EULAs are typically shown to the customer when the application is first launched and before the person can use the app. Unfortunately, when they do show up, EULAs are also frequently accompanied by various interface devices designed to slow people down. Some EULAs require people to scroll or paginate to the end of a 20-page document of incomprehensible lawyer-speak before they allow access. Others purposefully slow people down with confirmation screens that require extra taps. Truly, things in a torture department have evolved nicely since the days of Spanish Inquisition!


Financial giant Chase provides a good example of a EULA. As shown in figure 1, when customers first download the Chase app, they are faced with having to accept a EULA even before they can log in.

Figure 1: EULA antipattern in Chase app.











What makes this example interesting, is that the same information is accessible on the mobile phone without needing to accept the EULA first: through the mobile web browser, as shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2: There is no EULA on the Chase mobile website.













Why Avoid It

The remarkable thing is not that the EULA is required. Lawyers want to eat, too, so the EULAs are an important component of today’s modern litigious society. Dealing with a first-world bank in the “New Normal” pretty much guarantees that you’ll be faced with signing some sort of a legal agreement at some point in the relationship. The issue is not the EULA itself—it is the thoughtlessness of the timing of the EULA’s appearance.

The app has no idea if you have turned on the mobile access on or have your password set up properly. (Most people have at least a few issues with this.) Therefore, the app has no idea if the bank can serve you on this device. However, already, the bank managed to warn you that doing business on the mobile device is dangerous and foolhardy and, should you choose to be reckless enough to continue, the bank thereby has no reasonable choice but to relinquish any and all responsibility for the future of your money. This is hardly an excellent way to start a mature brand relationship.

What should happen instead? Well, the mobile website provides a clue. First, it shows what a customer can do without logging in, such as finding a local branch or an ATM. Next, the mobile site enables the customer to log in. Then the system determines the state of the EULA that’s on file. If (to paraphrase Eric Clapton in “The Tales of Brave Ulysses”) the customers’ “naked ears were tortured by the EULA’s sweetly singing” at some point in the past, great—no need to repeat the sheer awesomeness of the experience. If not, well, it’s Lawyer Time. Consequently, if customers do not have Bill Pay turned on, for example, they don’t need to sign a Bill Pay EULA at all, now do they? The point is that the first page customers get when they first launch your app is your welcome mat. Make sure yours actually says “Welcome.”

Additional Considerations

Has anyone bothered asking, “How many relationships (that end well) begin with a EULA anyway?” How would Internet feel if every website you navigated to first asked you to agree to a EULA, even before you could see what the site was about? That just does not happen. You navigate to a website and see awesome welcome content immediately. (Otherwise, you’d be out of there before you could spell E-U-L-A.) When you use a site to purchase something, you get a simple Agree and Proceed button with a nearby link to a EULA agreement (not that anyone ever bothers to read those things anyway, especially on mobile) and merely proceed on your way.

If you can surf the web happily, taking for granted the awesomeness of the smorgasbord of information on the mobile and desktop, without ever giving a second thought to the EULAs, why do you need to tolerate a welcome mat of thoughtless invasive agreements on a mobile app platform?

Additional Information

You can find 70 essential mobile and tablet design ideas and antipatterns in my new book, Android Design Patterns: Interaction Design Solutions for Developers (Wiley, 2013) now available for pre-order at http://AndroidDesignBook.com where you can also sign up for the next free monthly Android Design Question and Answer session.


  1. I agree this is terrible, but I wonder how we get around it generally? I still regularly encounter these issues. Aside from an EULA first and foremost, there are additional agreements and re-authentications and confirmations all over the place. Processes that can be mapped out on the whiteboard and get tacit agreement from the team as one page with a few states, slowly becomes a 7-8 page process as everything from legal/regulatory/compliance is an absolute and is addressed as a single point.

    Another good example is the new EU e-Privacy Directive. This /seems/ to be okay to be treated much like classic Ts&Cs with a link to get the info as needed. But a lot of organizations (and vendors who claim to have the answer, and lawyers) and insisting it be a giant, scary popup on entry.

    I do very often get around these, by reading the regs directly and offering logical arguments or trying to get everyone to do real risk assessment (vs. insisting on zero risk always). And of course, sometimes it works to argue about C-Sat, or so on. But it doesn’t work uniformly. Love to hear how we improve/address this.

  2. Great point, Steven! As you know, this is something mobile has struggled with from day 1. I think major shifts in law are often driven by technology, so it will come to pass for mobile (hopefully in our lifetime). I think the model where “user assumes the necessary risks, etc.” should be the norm, in the same way we now don’t have to sign a waver every time we board a bus.

    In the meantime, here are a couple of arguments you can use today:

    1) “This functionality will not work on smaller Androids/Blackberry”: One of my clients actually had to remove key functionality from apps because EULA could not be read on these devices. If you want to launch anyway, revise the EULA strategy.

    2) “Conversion will suffer”: re-plot the entire monster flow on the whiteboard for all to see. Get the lawyers in the room. Assume 10% drop off in conversion for every silly form. Ask business if risk of losing customers is worth the risk of being sued. May not change their minds this time, but at least eyes will be opened.

    3) “Website does it without EULA”: my favorite: if the website does it without EULA, then there is no reason to put it in the app – “app is just a wrapper, same protocol, yet more secure (can get GPS coordinates for user, touch signature, their mobile number, and thumbprint/retina scan/etc. in the near future).”

    4) “Can we add EULA before checkout instead”: change the place where EULA is shown, for lower impact.

    5) “Do we need all of the EULA? Can we just show a part of it?”: e.g. if customers already saw some part of the EULA, don’t show the whole thing again, but only a shorter portion.

    6) “Can I email you the EULA instead and you promise to read it”: if the customers can agree to explicitly receive EULA by email, then you may sometimes get around the requirement of having to show EULA on a mobile device.

    7) “Southwest Airlines approach”: Another favorite of mine: rewrite EULA so it is a simple 1-page checklist that can be understood by everyone.

    If all else fails, realize that the EULA may not be Khali’s Dance of Death, especially if it’s a single document. Client may well be just risk averse in its culture; in fact risk aversion can be the essential part of the branding.

    Has anyone used these or other approaches successfully? Let’s hear them!

  3. Got a new one for you, maybe worthy of a screenshot and secondary example: try going to m.weather.com. Why, oh why, do they need to first show you a page entirely about how they will ask for location? Especially when the device will pop up a dialogue with the same information in a minute.

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