Last February, I wrote about the dying business model that is printed phone directories. Like Lee before me, I argued for a shift from ‘blanket the country with 30 million phone books a year’ to ‘let people opt in to receive them’.
You can now choose to receive more copies or to be removed from the distribution list. At all times, you can also consult our online directories YellowPages.ca and Canada411.ca. In addition, you can select gadgets and mobile applications to access our Yellow PagesÃ¢â€žÂ¢ directory content on the go.
The deadline to opt out of the next delivery is November 19, so if you don’t want the Big Useless Stack of Yellow Paper, get thee to this web page and decline your copy.
I’m not going to fall all over myself giving credit to Yellow Pages Group for this because:
- It’s 2009, and they could have easily implemented this five years ago. Heck, they could have done it 25 years ago by including a comment card in the physical directory.
- You’re not declining delivery permanently. From their frequently asked questions (PDF): “Your registration is valid for two directory deliveries. After that time, you must register again at www.ypg.com/delivery.”
- It remains an opt-out system, meaning that waste will be reduced, but it certainly won’t be eliminated.
The Devil and the Details
I wanted to explore a few of the nuances of how they’ve implemented this program. The home page for this section is interesting in and of itself. There are two text links in the introductory text which are far more visible than the ‘Continue’ button, which is buried unobtrusively in the bottom righthand corner. It’s surprising, but we often see links in text receive higher clickthrough rates than graphical buttons:
Why are the frequently asked questions presented as a PDF? Is there a more effective way to discourage people from reading them? Additionally, the page doesn’t render correctly on my version of Safari (BroswerShots confirms that it’s not just my machine–note the overlapping text and oddly placed field):
That’s a bit ironic, if user stereotypes hold true. It seems to me that your average Mac user is far likelier to want to opt out than your average Windows user.
Lower down on the page, after you’ve entered your details, they offer some alternative apps for your mobile device. I don’t care to marketed to when I’m engaged in a customer service experience, but that’s their prerogative. What I do object to is the explanation-free captcha at the bottom of the page:
You need to complete this captcha to move to the next step in the opt-out process. To veteran web users, the captcha’s function is obvious and it’s easy to complete. However, I’d guess that many (a majority of?) Canadians have never completed a captcha, and has no idea what to do with one. Yellow Pages Group offers no context or instructions regarding what it’s for or how it works. It thus presents a significant barrier to the opt-out process.
Why do they need a captcha in the first place? Other forms on their site don’t include captchas. Do they really think they’re going to get a ton of spammers opting into or out of receiving directories? And isn’t it rendered unnecessary by the subsequent email confirmation step?
Finally, there’s the confirmation step:
The heading is oddly worded, considering that I have declined, not ordered a delivery. And they’ve included another commercial offer, despite the fact that I was viewing the page with Safari.
Am I picking on the Yellow Pages? Yes, and I probably shouldn’t, because I want to encourage sustainable behaviour. I’m obviously underwhelmed by this effort, though. In web design and usability, the devil is in the details and the mistakes I’ve outlined are pretty obvious ones.
This opt-out process seems designed to create barriers between the a site visitor and their desired outcome. Here’s the fundamental question: have they made it as easy as possible to opt-out? I’m afraid the answer is obvious.