Terms of Service
From Social Patterns
A Terms of Service Agreement provides a legal framework for the use and dissemination of 'information services' and intellectual property assets provided on a website.
Every website can be construed as a provider of 'information services' to the consumers of this information, whether it is visitors or registered members. While it is not necessary to have a Terms of Service Agreement on a website, it serves as a legal safeguard that establishes roles and responsibility for creation, use and redistribution/dissemination of intellectual property in the event of a dispute or legal action.
When a form includes a checkbox for the user to indicate agreement to terms of service (TOS), the user often doesn't notice the checkbox and is confronted with an error message and a demand to read and agree to the terms of service before completing the form. There's no reason to place the user in this position, where they may feel affronted merely because they did not notice a checkbox.
Use this pattern for check-out flows and sign-up forms.
- Consent to the agreement is expressed in the call-to-action button ('Agree and Continue').
- The form offers an option to exit without agreeing ('Cancel' or 'Don't Agree / Cancel Order').
- A statement makes clear that submitting the form constitutes agreement to the terms ('By clicking you agree...').
- The terms of service (TOS) text is available via a clearly labeled hypertext link (Terms of Service').
- The TOS copy is supplied in a printable format.
In different international regions, laws may be in place requiring a separate checkbox or an interstitial that forces the user to see the terms of service before continuing.
The goal of this pattern is to make the experience of completing the form better for the user and to avoid interrupting the user or making them feel as though they have made an error.
Combining the agreement with the call-to-action button, and clearly labeling the option offers a streamlined experience in the natural flow of filling out the form. The experience is somewhat analogous to signing a document.
It is important to offer an option to exit (cancel) the form without making the agreement, giving the user an escape hatch and making their consent to the terms meaningful, given that they had an alternate choice available.
Linking to the TOS provides direct access to the legal copy but avoids cluttering the page with either a large amount of verbiage or an embedded texts box or iframe.
The language preceding the buttons clearly explains that clicking means agreeing, so the legal force of the agreement is clear.
Offering a printable TOS is a best practice that enables the user to keep a copy of what they agreed to (or show it to a legal expert before agreeing).
These five elements of the pattern work in tandem. Removing any one defeats the purpose of the pattern.
Finally, this pattern represents a best practice in the industry, seen in use by companies for whom check-out flows are core experiences (such as PayPal).
As Seen On
Sources / Similar Patterns in Other Libraries
- Terms of Service (Yahoo! Pattern Library)