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PRODUCT.|PHILOSOPHY.|LIFE.

Make it easier for them to leave


I had to pay four months extra on my TMobile phone bill when I moved from the Netherlands, because my contract stated that I couldn't end it before a specified time period under any circumstances. My rental agreement has a similar clause where I have to pay two months of rent if I want to leave before the end of the contract.

This doesn't just happen in contracts. We design products this way as well. If I have to take my posts out of Medium, it is extremely hard. If I have to take my comments out of Medium, it is impossible. If I want to take my contacts out of Facebook, it is impossible. If I want to take my pictures out of Instagram, it is impossible. If I have to delete my Facebook account, it is not at all straightforward.

When I had to cancel my subscription for The New Yorker, it was so hard that I found it easier to block my credit card that was paying for it and get a new one instead.

And I have a thousand other examples like that.

Products are designed such that it is extremely easy to get started, to try the product, to get sucked in. But once inside, it is extremely hard to get out and not come back.

As a result, I was a subscriber to The New Yorker for many months even after I had made up my mind and attempted to unsubscribe. And like me, many people are stuck with products that they would have left had it been easier to leave them.

This is because everyone optimizes for the conversion funnel which results in the easiest experience possible for someone to try a product. And everyone optimizes for retaining their users and their customers, which results in the hardest experience for someone that decides to leave.

What if we start treating the users like we'd treat our friends? What if we made it easier for them to leave when they decide to? Would we build our products differently?

I think we would, as we would have to then provide a lot more value for the users to keep them as our users when the option to leave is an easy one.

We'd start paying more attention. And we'd build better products.

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