December 24, 2017

UX: How to ask the user for permission?

Jakub Ziembiński
iOS Developer

We’ve all been there. You just found some new cool game that is going to make your way home less unbearable. You run it and…

Cool Game Would Like to Use Your Location popup says.
“Well, okay, but why?”
Cool Game needs your location right in the subtitle.
“Alright, that explains a lot. But fine — I’ll give it a shot” you think and hit Allow.
Cool Game Would Like to Access Your Photos.
“What? It’s a game! Why would you want that?!”.

That’s about the point when you get annoyed enough to go back to Home Screen and delete the app. Lots of people do.

The first interaction with the app is extremely important. Display multiple pop-ups asking for different permissions to user's sensitive data without proper explanation and you might find your user among the 23% of people who deleted the app just after first use. To prevent that from happening I listed some simple guidelines which you should always follow.

Bombarding the user with multiple popups is never a good idea. Especially immediately after the first launch. That makes the app seem intrusive. Users want to feel their privacy is respected and one way of doing so is creating a reliable and honest onboarding process.

Scouts app asking for user permission to access location Scouts app asking for user permission to access location

Clearly educating why the app needs certain permissions builds trust. Users should understand that if they want to use a certain feature they need to provide certain data.

Another way is asking for permission in a context. It’s in most cases more effective because of onboarding caries one significant risk. Users need to make a decision up-front and even with proper education, they might not be sure if they want to use the feature requiring permission.

WOW app asking for user permissions to access contacts WOW app asking for user permissions to access contacts

On the other hand, asking for granting the app gallery access during the process of sharing a photo eliminates that risk because the user already made the decision. They want to send the picture and in order to do so, they know they must press Allow. Plain and simple.

But what if the user doesn’t agree? Well, they must face the consequences 😉 No, really. If the user denied permission that is critical to the app, there should be a clear explanation of why permission is necessary. You can always provide a button transferring to settings where users can re-allow it, but it might be risky on iOS as there are no official guidelines and the app can be rejected by Apple during the process of publishing the app to the AppStore. Also don’t try to overcome the denied permission — it was a user’s conscious decision and he has to live with that. It is still a good option to remind users that they can always change their mind although the iOS app can ask for certain permission only once and digging through settings is very poor UX. It’s a long, unintuitive process and there is no way to guide the user through it.

Permissions might be tricky but when handled with caution they might build reliance and trust. Just remember — ask nicely and you shall receive!

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Written by
Jakub Ziembiński
iOS Developer

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