The web needs fewer doorslams and more personality

Around a year ago, experience designer Aral Balkan complained about doorslams—modal messages that interrupt user flow, to ask them to download your app. We recently wrote about how devs are increasingly rallying against such anti-patterns.

Mobile enthusiast Terence Eden has gone further than most, with Tumblr blog I Don't Want Your Fucking App, an amusingly ranty response to doorslams that berates the companies engaged in this practice. Only not everyone’s amused; as Eden explained in a recent blog post, a HackerNews discussion on his blog focussed mainly on the issue of swearing rather than doorslams. Eden (TE) spoke to .net about why he thought doorslams should “fuck off” and why the modern web could do with a personality injection.

.net: What’s your take on why companies are using doorslams?
TE: It’s because mobile app development is expensive. When you’ve spent loads of money on an app and aren’t getting many downloads, you very quickly want to make a return on your investment. At the moment, because of that disparity between cost and users, there’s a drive to do anything to get people to download the app, even if that means cannibalising usage or revenue from other areas.

.net: Isn’t there a danger of turning people entirely off of your brand?
TE: Indeed. If someone seeing a doorslam is told “get our app”, they might not think there’s anything other than the app, and they’ll go away. Alternatively, they might not want the app or be able to install it or want to pay money for it.

You’re also putting up a barrier. You say: I know you want this content, but I’m going to stop you getting it until you do some other interaction, such as finding a close button or remembering to hit ‘cancel’ rather than ‘OK’. There’s a real danger users are going to be turned off by that. They don’t want to be forced down one route or another. The web is about openness and choice, not about forcing someone to pick a direction.

.net: Why did you create the Tumblr? Do you just care too much?
TE: [laughs] My passions aroused! Well, my good friend Aral Balkan pointed out to me a couple of months ago how many sites were engaging in this anti-pattern, slamming the door in users’ faces. I waited for a month or so and didn’t see anyone else taking up the cause and thought I’d have fun putting up a ranty Tumblr, exposing the madness.

.net: As you said in your blog post, the language has come in for some criticism. Do you think there’s now a tendency to be too careful online? Is there room for more authenticity and personality?
TE: Yes. In the good ol’ days, when I started on the ’net in the early ’90s, that’s all you got: personal opinion. No-one was worried about what someone might think, or if a future boss might find what you’d written. We’ve now swung so far the other way that people are frightened of expressing themselves as they truly are. We hear stories about teachers being fired due to posting on Facebook a photo of themselves with a beer, but guess what? Adults drink beer! Adults hold opinions you may not like!

We’ve got to a stage where the web is so ingrained in everyday life that people worry when they’re not seen to conform to an Anglo-American puritanical mode of behaviour—no drinking, no swearing, and no talking about sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll. This means there’s a dearth of authentic voices.

We have to remember it’s all right to get angry and passionate about things we genuinely care about, whether that’s equal marriage or something as trivial as doorslams. We have a right to say: “This is fucked up! It annoys me!” If someone really annoys you on the street, you’d probably tell them to fuck off, and so I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate to record that as your genuine and honest reaction.

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