Musings

TNW + Disqus

UPDATE: Trent Walton’s article titled Human Interest has an excellent anecdote on this same topic. Look for the heading: we hope you enjoyed your stay.


I’m glad that a service like Disqus exists because it centralizes my interaction with various pieces of content and any responses I receive. Furthermore, you can take that same authentication to any site that uses the embedded commenting system (like mine) and you don’t have to disclose your information or go through a sign-up flow for every site that you’d like to interact with.

I’m also a frequent reader of The Next Web (TNW) for the most recent startup developments, and occasionally the lists of can’t miss apps. TNW + Disqus has been great for me. Recently I was adding a comment to one of the articles and got sent through a new authentication flow. This was unexpected, because Disqus is usually a simple interaction of signing in and posting the comment. TNW had an added hook however, and now asks users to sign up for a TNW account regardless of your existing Disqus account.

Why use Disqus if the end result of authenticating is to create a TNW account?

This hook that interferes with a user is what I call link jerking, illustrated in the tweet below:

Link Jerking
def. A design practice that increases the number of clicks between a user and the desired content or interaction with no apparent benefit to the user.

Named as such because they’re jerking the user around with unnecessary clicks. It’s kind of like an ad-wall, but even worse in my opinion, because it only takes one click to get through an advertisement.

The Next Web in this scenario is making you jump through extra hoops, just to get your name, info, and email subscriptions. Why use Disqus if the end result of authenticating is to create a TNW account? It would be shorter to just make a TNW account and use their own commenting system.

I’ve used Disqus on TNW many times before, but was disgruntled the other day when I had to follow many more steps than usual, and disclose personal information just to leave a comment. Yes, this sounds like a mountain out of a molehill, but I believe in simple solutions and attention to detail. Hopefully that level of attention helps me be a better designer, but I admit I’m quite sensitive to inconvenience as a user, which I immediately judge to be bad UX.

Typical user flow for a Disqus-enabled site

  1. Click log in to Disqus
  2. Fill in your credentials, hit log in, and wait to be directed back to the article
  3. Write your comment and publish it. The end.

New method on TNW

  1. Click log in to Disqus
  2. Fill in your credentials, hit log in, and wait to be directed back to the article
  3. Write your comment… Oh wait, you can’t publish until you “connect with” TNW.
  4. Hit next in order to “connect,” and you’re redirected to a page requesting profile details and all content you’ve posted via Disqus.
    It doesn’t feel like I am “connecting” with anything. That would imply I get something out of this interaction. Concede, and hit allow — because that’s what we’ve been trained to do on the web.
  5. You’re not done yet! The page redirects to a list of things you can subscribe to from TNW. They’ve taken the liberty of checking all the newsletters for you – how nice of them.
    I hope they don’t have a UX Designer working for them, or they should know better. Up-sells should never be preselected, and never come before the desired interaction. This whole page is already one inconvenience; unchecking each of the boxes turns it into five, if we’re counting clicks.
  6. After hitting continue to the up-sell, you’re brought back to the comment field, and can finally hit post! Whew.

User Flow in Screenshots

Designing for accidents

Let’s boil it down. They’re designing for accidents. Yes, I happened to find this as a good example, but please don’t blame TNW alone; many agencies and brands will do this. The logic goes like this: yeah it’s annoying, but a good number of people will just hit ‘next’ to get through the process and sign up for our newsletters. Once signed up, another sizable chunk of users are too lazy or uninformed about how to unsubscribe.

If you’re The Next Web, or any other site, please consider this UX question:

    Would you prefer users accidentally subscribing to a newsletter or clicking an up-sell and likely feeling dissatisfied, tricked, or delayed; or would you want them engaging/interacting with your content?

Users could be trying to comment on an article, or buy a plane ticket. Shouldn’t your priority be facilitating that behavior, and have the subsequent positive experience motivate subscriptions or additional purchases?

Click, Feel, Think

Hopefully my personal frustrations haven’t overshadowed the basic User Experience lesson above. I love encountering good design, but it’s poor design that can teach us the most. While you browse the web and go about your routine, I suggest you pay special attention to seemingly minor emotional responses to different tasks you complete. These responses stick with you regardless, and shape your opinion of a brand and its services. I try to keep a mental notebook of these reactions to inform my own designs. I become a better designer for users by being an observant user more often.

Click, listen to what you feel, and think about why.

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