• http://blog.protocol80.com Josh Curcio

    Great article! I love the examples you gave. As a purchaser I often overlook these things, maybe because of my comfort level of online shopping. It has almost become a routine to make sure that I am not purchasing unneeded things, signing up for newsletters, purchasing extra insurance, etc.

    As a marketer, I tend to think of every optimization strategy with usability in mind. Working with smaller businesses, clients are not always considering things from a usability perspective though. Sometimes think that what they are doing is to help the customer as opposed to upselling. At times, I think they are correct, but this article could certainly give them a new perspective on the situation. Especially if they overlook these situations when they are shopping online for themselves.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Terrific piece, Sandra.

    I anticipate a pendulum effect. The web has made price/offer comparison trivial and fast and eroded customer lifetime value for advertisers. Advertisers react to this decline in value by focusing on maximizing the short term revenue and wringing as much as they can from a customer the first go-round. At some point the pendulum will swing back, I think. Companies that take the long view and consistently keep the customers interests in mind will rebuild customer loyalty and reap the benefits of word-of-mouth and increased profits.

    Here’s hoping the pendulum swings back sooner, rather than later.

  • http://searchengineland.com Sandra Niehaus

    Thanks, Josh!
    I agree, sometimes a company is sincerely trying to help the user. For example, U-Haul could easily argue that most people NEED furniture pads and dollies – and they may even have the rental stats to prove it. However, there’s one point I didn’t bring up in the article: Lance swears that when he first rented his trailer, the top “I DO NOT want these items” link was NOT on any of the pages. It was added later. If that’s indeed the case, I can’t help but think U-Haul had some irate customer feedback to prompt the change.

  • http://searchengineland.com Sandra Niehaus

    George, I couldn’t agree more about the likely pendulum effect, and the recent economy has certainly increased business fears and exacerbated the swing. There will always be predatory companies, but I’m with you – crossing my fingers that the general trend is more positive.

  • http://ConversionScientist.com Brian Massey

    Sandra, Godaddy.com knows how to market online, but I’ve accidentally renewed domains and bought services because of their aggressive use of button prioritization and upselling. As a result, I won’t consider them as I look for a new host for my Web sites.

    Too often “evil” is defined by damage to the business, not the visitor.

    Loved the examples.

    Brian Massey

  • gstreamerdev

    It seems that you have an agenda and a story to tell. I havent searched for RealPlayer in a long time, but I did after I read your story. It went to a link that didnt look anything like the screenshot you show. Also, no sign of Superpass anywhere. I clicked on the most prominent link, it downloads the free player, and installs without doing any “evil” things that you talk about in your article. In fact, after using it for a couple of hours (hey, I can download videos from that evil youtube website see http://www.youtube.com/t/terms ) I feel this is something I can live with for a while.

    Long story short, I feel you have somthing to say, valid or not, but your examples seem to be not living up to your argument.

  • joeweller

    Hi Sandra,

    I work at RealNetworks, and I appreciate your perspective on this page. For what it’s worth, this is a page that was developed years ago, and since Fall of 2009 we have stopped using this page entirely, for many of the reasons you’ve listed here.

    If you search for “free RealPlayer” now you’ll see a page that is focused on the Free RealPlayer. There is an option to upgrade to RealPlayer Plus, however the big green button is clearly for the “Free” RealPlayer, while the upsell link is much less prominent. (here’s the url: http://www.real.com/realplayer/search)


  • http://searchengineland.com Sandra Niehaus

    Hey Brian, I did exactly the same thing just a few weeks ago – accidentally purchased domains I didn’t mean to. I almost included GoDaddy here, but I’ve covered them before. It’s almost comical how deliberately evil they are.

  • http://searchengineland.com Sandra Niehaus

    Hi “gstreamerdev” and Joe – valid point, I should have checked for a more recent version of the RealPlayer example, or identified the time I captured it more closely. I’ll see about making that edit to the article.

    However, last fall it was an actual live landing page (thanks, Joe), and the argument is still valid even if the page has been updated since.

    Joe, giant kudos on the new page. You’ve added a few points of goodwill.

  • ryanpryor


    Thanks for this post. Helpful to think about this stuff, and glad to hear you calling such practices as “evil.” I completely get that because as I was reading down the article I was thinking “Man, I need to tell her about that F-ed UHaul site.” and then you had it in the article and i was happy to see it. that site had me so confused i walked through the whole process 3 times just to make sure i hadn’t missed something, since AFTER all the funnel crap, it STILL wasn’t clear if my truck return was to be a specific place, etc. and calling in to the store only got a snippy reply #poorcustomerservice.

    venting over.
    thanks for the article :-)


  • http://searchengineland.com Sandra Niehaus

    Hey Ryan, that’s funny and ironic — glad I could help! :)

  • David Szetela

    Sandra – great article and writing style (as usual) – thanks!

  • http://unbounce.com OliGardner

    Real have always been on the unfortunate side of having absolute no business model. So I try to laugh when they release new stuff.

    Their conversion must work on some folks (you know who you are), but really: is it free or is it not?

    Conversion trickiness afoot for sure.

    I hope they do well, but I wish they’d learn some solid UX.

  • http://searchengineland.com Sandra Niehaus

    Thanks, David! And Oli, I have to agree about Real not seeming to have a clear business model. Are they a hosting/streaming provider? Editing software? Media destination? Ad platform? And if they don’t know for certain who they are, then how can they possibly have a clear understanding of their target audience or formulate a unique value proposition toward that audience? Good UX will help, but can’t fix the foundational issues.