Tarring An Entire Industry With Gimmicks And Tricks

David Smith on the problem with in app purchases:

There seems to be a culture developing around designing games and apps that are intended to intentionally mislead and coerce customers into making more and more purchases.

My most basic concern with this revenue model (and how it is currently being applied) is how it can become dishonest and intentionally misleading to customers. I don’t think anyone would contend that making a customer feel cheated or regretful of their purchases would be a good thing. The nature of many of the techniques currently employed is to create environments where customers make impulse decisions in the moment that they would not make with more context.

In it he refers to an article that talks openly about the tricks developers are using to get people to buy more with in app purchases. It is also worth referring to this post on how Nielsen’s usability heuristics are manipulated across the Internet to do the same kinds of things, primarily with mailing lists. (Example: Click the box to not be emailed.)

He’s right, of course. Using people in this way is damaging over time. People come to not trust that company to do right by them. Credit card companies have played this game for years, making us read pages of documents to keep our information private, navigate tricky language, and then do it every year instead of once. And look how much we trust the finance industry these days!

It would be nice if just these companies developed a bad reputation but it doesn’t work that way. The problem is all of us who write code are affected by these games played by app makers. When customers stop trusting one, they stop trusting all of us.

Infinity Softworks received this support email this weekend, and by all accounts this is a fairly mild one:

Not what I expected. I needed actual Financial calculator not just the problem solving feature. I’d like either my money back or the option to have a calculator as option. I will voice my opinion regarding this. Very disappointed. Kind of pissed.

The author doesn’t trust us. We’ve been tarred and feathered by gimmicks and tricks of companies past. The author feels that we have misled and the only recourse will be to get vocal about it.

Never mind that it is probably a simple misunderstanding.