Man using tablet with privacy icon on screen showing the four tips to balance legal risk and user experience when developing products

Four Tips to Balance Legal Risk and User Experience

Having an online presence is becoming more and more of a necessity. By 2021, it’s projected that 2.14 billion people will buy goods and services online. As a result, today’s innovators developing businesses operating largely online are trying to balance two things: legal risk and user experience.

The temptation of product developers is to prioritize the user experience, which makes sense. However, the danger is you might neglect to think about the legal risks which require terms and conditions to be shared and accepted. This can disrupt the customer journey, and thus can be neglected.

Consider a social media platform like Facebook. When growing their user base, it was crucial for them to develop a quality user experience. At the same time, they had to enter a legally binding agreement with each user signing up for the platform to ensure they would be protected should any issues with users arise. They couldn’t send each new user a PDF of a contract to download, sign, and return. Thus, online contracts were born.

As these online contracts have evolved, companies began to face litigation over them. This has thrust contracts and online agreements into the spotlight. From 2002 to 2018, there was a 626% increase in litigation over clickthrough agreements – an online agreement businesses rely on to capture acceptance of terms from a customer. This litigation is causing companies to evaluate if their agreements are enforceable in court. When you add new privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) to the equation, you’re only adding to the risk for companies.

So what can businesses do to mitigate risk without hindering user experience? It starts with the product and legal teams coming together to strike a balance. Here are four key ways businesses can align and find equilibrium.

1. Have a privacy policy

The CCPA mandates businesses to have a privacy policy, which is a good practice for every business to follow. A good privacy policy not only informs consumers on how their data will be collected, processed, handled and stored, it should also outline why the information is collected and how a user can opt-out. Be sure to track who has accepted your privacy policy versus opting out, as this is mandated by the laws but also helpful should you be brought to court over any agreement.

2. Pay attention to the presentation

Your website should have a solid design and layout that makes the existence of terms obvious to the user, and make it clear that the action they take constitutes acceptance of the terms. Consumers (and the court) generally prefer a clean design and presentation ensuring all agreements are clear and obviously displayed. This can be the difference between an online agreement holding up in court or not.

3. Make signing frictionless

The reality is you will need to execute contracts and agreements with consumers. To create a compelling user experience, make the process of agreeing to a contract as frictionless as possible. Try converting the acceptance of agreements in familiar workflows such as email, chat, or texting. Doing so allows you to get a signed agreement without taking your end-user away from your platform.

4. Collaborate amongst departments

Often IT/tech teams see legal as a roadblock to innovation. However, the reality is legal is there to help protect the good work being done by product teams. Giving legal a seat at the table in important product development meetings will allow for better departmental alignment and the opportunity for legal and IT to work together to execute agreements. As more privacy legislation is passed, the necessity of legal being involved is only going to increase.

As innovators continue to develop products for online business, they will face the challenge of creating a pleasing user experience without increasing legal risk. It is imperative companies find a balance between the two. Without collaboration, this is not going to happen. As long as departments work together, and the right types of agreements are put into place – companies can strike the balance between legal risk and user experience.