How to make terms and conditions useful

Paul Boag

We maybe obliged to put legalise on our websites, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it intelligible.

There are some things we slap on our websites with no consideration whatsoever. Things that we include because we have to, rather than because they are in anyway useful. Examples could include:

  • Terms and conditions
  • Privacy policies
  • Accessibility policies

These things are only online because we are legally obliged to put them there, not because they have any value to the user.

Users are interested in their rights when using a website. They are interested in their privacy. However, pages like these have to be written in legalise and so are impossible to decipher by the average person.

What then is the solution? How do we make these pages useful to real people and give them the information they actually want?

This week I received an email from Eugene pointing me at the terms and conditions page on This website has taken the time to make its T&Cs and privacy policies actually useful.

Eugene (@wanyax) wrote:

Terms and conditions and EULAs are usually the most boring part of a site. More often than not I click the “agree” button without so much as scanning them. This is because they are usually a large chunk of long winded fluff as far as I’m concerned. However, today I realized that a site I often use has found a brilliant solution to this problem. They have summarised the EULA chunks. I thought this was an ingenious approach andI hope you will find it remotely interesting.

I couldn’t agree more. However, for me this is representative of an underlying principle. Too many of us put content online without really thinking about whether it is useful or what we could do to make it really help our users. This is what makes the difference between a good site and an outstanding one.

500px terms and conditions page

Take a look at your own terms and conditions, privacy policies and accessibility statements and ask yourself whether you could make them more intelligible.

Also ask whether you have the right attitude towards putting content online. Do you really think about what you are putting online and whether it actually has any real value.