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Give Users a Simple Exit Strategy


Photo by: Alex //Berlin _ as+photography

This past weekend I had a phone call from an employee of a company that connects travelers with those who have couches and want to earn extra income. This employee, we’ll call him Jordan, mentioned that someone had made a request on my Syracuse, NY apartment (one I haven’t lived in for over a year) and asked if I was going to respond to it.

The phone call caught me by surprise because two days ago, I visited Jordan’s website to disable my listing permanently. When I got there, I found myself a little lost. I couldn’t find a help feature from the account management screen. I then went to the homepage and saw an FAQ link at the bottom. Finding this I tried a few search queries until I learned that I needed to visit my calendar and select an option to disable my listing.

Boy did I feel dumb, the calendar is the first place I should have looked!

This story highlights what I want to write about today. When you develop a service, you should take into account what happens when a user stops using your service. For some services this is easy, nothing happens. The user’s content and account stays.

For other services, this detail is critical. In the case of Jordan’s service, when a user likes me stops using the service, it hurts. I’m the scourge of his service. He looks good when travelers get quick and courteous responses from those with couches. I no longer have a claim to the property with the couch I was renting. For Jordan, he may want to consider an active strategy to force people like me to exit without polluting his community. Maybe an email ping after a year of no account activity from someone with an active listing.

Sometimes having an exit strategy is not necessary but it builds good will. I particularly like what does. lets you export your data into an XML file that you can then import to another service. Knowing that I can sign up for an account, invest into making a blog on, and later get that data back is nice.

Now, ask yourself: “when a user stops using my service, what is their exit strategy?” If you can, help them out. If a user’s lack of exiting negatively affects your community, make sure you’re doing something to protect your business.

Posted in usability testing on April 13, 2010 | No Comments »

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