Do I have to give you my email to try your cheese sample?

This would be an insane conversation in the real world… and yet online, we often are asked to give up lots of information about ourselves in exchange for a trial. It sounds weird when you take online norms into the real world.

The social rules in the real world are often ignored in the virtual world. Try downloading a trial of software. This often requires you share an email address or more. Want to use that great new app… I am afraid you have to log-in, likely through Facebook.

Recently, I wanted to try some popular virtualization software. Finding a link to download the demo was a challenge but I found it. Then I ran into the question gauntlet.  I was hit with a variety questions and then was sent an email with a link where I could download the trial. The trial only last for a couple days… during which I was repeatedly emailed to buy. The emails pressured me as my trial ran out, ultimately I flagged their email as spam and avoided the companies offering.

Compare and Contrast 

What struck me about this experience was how different it was than what I compare it to in the real world. I love visiting our local bulk warehouse club when the samples are being given out. I love to eat and I’m an easy mark if your sample has bacon or cheese. I will try and I will likely buy.

Can you imagine walking up to the cheese sample stand and as you reached in to grab a sample, you were stopped and told you had to tell the sample lady your email. Maybe your name. If she was really feeling it, your job title and your annual income.

Whoa! No way I am telling you that for cheese. 

Of course this doesn’t happen. You grab some cheese and wonder on your way. Then as you round the corner to the bakery area the cheese sample lady shows up again and gets in your face about buying the cheese that you sampled.

Wow, this is creepy! 

Because you are polite, you say you are thinking about it but you need to grab some dinner rolls… so could you move? A couple minutes later she is back, telling you how great the cheese is compared to all other cheese. And then, she seems to notice you are heading toward the checkout and offers to put the cheese in your shopping cart.

Again, no way this happens in the real world, but if it did, what would you do? I’d look around for the hidden camera and wonder what show I was on.

However, this tactic is the norm in our virtual worlds, and frankly, the virtual world could learn a lot from the cheese sample lady.

My question is “Why is there a disconnect between how we treat people (and expect to be treated) in the digital world compared to the real world?” Once we understand why this schism exist, we, as UX professionals, developers, marketers and owners of digital experiences can work to change how people experience and ultimately perceive the things we build and offer to the world.


Microsoft being creepy.

Recently I was asked  to state “Your point of view.” After thinking about this I came to the conclusion that “Virtual interactions are an increasingly large part of our human experience, yet the rules and thinking that govern these experience is often not human centric. It’s time to challenging these “norms” and sync our real and virtual experiences.”