When Websites Trap You
"Welcome to Our Website! (You can't leave. Ever.) Enjoy!"
There are countless websites that internet users can benefit from by becoming members. Some of them enable you to work and earn money, others are just for fun, and there's a whole myriad of other types in between. There are of course the most common sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. But once you start wandering into lesser known regions of the world wide web, you may be in for a nasty surprise.
I'm referring to sites which have a habit of making it very difficult or impossible to leave once you are registered. If the site ends up being less than what it promised, and you'd like to say "Thanks, but no thanks", they may go right ahead and not let you. The motivation behind this is unclear, but perhaps they want to be able to report that "we have over 100,000 members" without revealing the true story behind the statistics. If they do want committed members, they need to improve their services by simplifying the functions, making it more appealing, or whatever changes are specific to them. Above all, they need to listen to suggestions made by their members.
When I cannot find an easy way to escape, it doesn’t make me suddenly commit to the site, it makes me feel like a prisoner online. One who was enticed by promises of benefits that do not materialise as expected - the pretty mask has come off and there is now something horrific underneath. I have the option of simply never logging on to the site again, but of course it never disappears from the internet if they don’t allow deletion. My profile on that site may keep coming up in search engine results, giving the entirely incorrect impression that I am still happily affiliated with them.
When I decided to leave my previous social networking site to join Facebook where all my friends had already migrated to, the site used a guilt tactic to try and get me to stay, with sad emoticons and page after page of "are you sure?" before finally letting me delete my account.
Here I'd say that (almost) all is fair in the competition for the modern web surfer's attention, so I don't hold it against them. The bottom line is, they let me leave in the end. That's all I ask for! When I decide I've had enough of a site, go ahead and give me your best shot at enticing me to stay. But DO NOT trap me. I will only get upset, and I'm not the only one.
A few suggestions for the managers of membership websites:
Put the delete option in plain sight, in the "My Account" section, or even next to "Help" "Contact Us" and whatever other links you may have lined up at the top or bottom of each page on your site. This is a comfort, we are more likely to explore your site and give it more of a chance when we know that we can come and go as we please. It's like looking back to see the edge of the pool when learning how to swim. If things get too deep for our liking, we can get out.
Make the deletion process completely digital, do not tell me to send an email to one of the site operators. More often than not, there will be delays which doesn't surprise me. I have no clue what happens when my request enters this person's inbox. I begin to think, what if they are not online at the time? What if they put the task at the bottom of their To Do list? The choice to delete my information is in the hands of this nameless, faceless email address, and that's very uncomfortable. The choice should ALWAYS be mine - and it shouldn't take longer than a few minutes to complete the process.
Make it clear from the beginning that there is an option of opting out if I'm not feeling it. Sure, you may lose my membership, but you will have my respect. If I leave, it's up to you to learn why, and not take it personally. Not everything appeals to everyone, I'm sure you will find plenty of other new members if your user friendliness standards are continually improving.
Here's one of the sites I found was hard to leave:
Helium.com - a site advertising that they are a platform which offers writers from around the world a chance to get published and paid.
The Problem: I decided it wasn't for me when the payment methods were way too complicated, such that I could write and submit an article but would still have to jump through hoops to get paid (also known as their ranking system where you compete with other writers who wrote under the same title). Ultimately, I have no clue when or where an article of mine may be published. As for leaving... they often warn in their terms that if rules aren't followed they can delete my account. However, they neglect to mention how to delete it by choice!
See another blogger's opinion about Helium here: Is Helium.com a Fraud?
There is hope...
If you want to know about website's account deletion policies before you register with them, check out Account Killer.com. It's a very informative site which provides step-by-step instructions for deleting accounts for over 150 websites. An interesting feature is the use of colour codes to indicate how difficult it is to delete accounts on each site. Some policies of popular sites may even surprise you...
Have you found yourself remaining an unwilling member of a website? Share your stories!
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