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Best UX Practices for Subscription Businesses

Admin | 11 May 2021 | Read time: 10 minutes
Topics | Paywalls

If you want users of your website to convert to subscribers, then your focus is likely centred on simply convincing the reader that your content is worth paying for. 

However, if you haven’t considered UX (user experience) as part of the process, then you could be making it harder for them to subscribe to your site – even if they want to. 

All businesses should be thinking about UX regardless of whether you intend to implement paywall software but this does become even more important when you are using digital subscriptions  to monetise your content.

You want the experience from first visit to subscriber to be as smooth as possible so it benefits both the reader and your publication.  

So, as well as using a subscription platform, here are some of the best UX practices for subscription businesses that you should be considering:

Make your "Subscribe now" button as clear as possible

The most important thing you need to do is make sure that first, you have a ‘Subscribe Now’ button. Check that it isn’t tucked away or hidden among other buttons and links on your site. Instead, you want it to be clear and accessible from anywhere on the website. 

This might mean featuring it in the header where it is easy to see whether the reader lands on the homepage or on an article. You may also want to consider designing this button in a bolder colour, so it stands out from the background. 

You want it to be as easy as possible for the user to start the process of subscribing as soon as they choose to do so. If they have to search around your website for a way to sign-up they may not see the process through to the end.  

Give the user the information they need without bombarding them

Make sure the information the user needs to know, in order to make an informed decision on whether they want to subscribe or not, is clear and concise. Hiding important information (such as the price) will only frustrate the user who may well have signed up if it had been obvious in the first place.

When you click on  The Telegraph, for example, you’ll see an incentive in their subscribe button that reads: ‘Free for one month.’ This piques the user’s interest who then clicks through and can clearly see all the information they need. 

The cost is written in blue and the button to continue is in yellow, both of which stand out against the white background. Between the two is a bullet pointed list of exactly what you’ll get with your subscription. 

Reduce the number of clicks

This goes hand in hand with limiting the amount of information you present to users. If there is too much to read, the potential subscriber will have to keep clicking and scrolling before they can start actually signing up. Your entire subscription process should not take more than a couple of clicks. The more times the user has to click through, the more likely they are to close the page down and take their subscription elsewhere. 

Again, on The Telegraph, one click takes you through to the ‘Pay monthly’ page. From here, you can click through once more to start your free trial. Alternatively, you can also carry on down the funnel to see what you get when you ‘Pay annually’ with the incentive in the button offering savings of 36%. Finally, from here, you can click the ‘Subscribe’ button. 

Try before you buy

There are many different paywalls to choose between and the one you opt for will determine how many articles a user can read before they must subscribe to be able to read more. You may choose to implement a hard paywall where users can only access one or two articles before they have to subscribe, or you could choose a soft paywall which allows the user access to all the content on your site except for the ‘premium’ articles which must be paid for. 

Whichever option you choose, potential subscribers want to be able to try before they buy. They aren’t going to sign up if they don’t know what they are signing up for. The best way to do this is with a trial period, like The Telegraph’s ‘one month free.’ This is your opportunity to show them why they should sign up and continue accessing your content. 

Likewise, you may allow them to read the first few paragraphs of an article before they have to pay to read on. A teaser that grabs their interest at the beginning will encourage them to subscribe to see how it ends.  

Keep the branding consistent

When the users click through to the subscription page it’s important that your branding looks like the rest of your website. From the text to the colours, consistency creates trust.

If the sign-up page looks completely different to the page they have clicked through from, it may cause them to feel suspicious and abandon the subscription. 

Give the reader different ways to subscribe

Give the user the option to choose a plan that suits them. This might allow them to sign up monthly – which shortens their commitment – or they could sign up for the whole year for a discounted price. This means choosing to be a subscriber for longer saves them money, which is a great incentive. The amount of content they can consume and any additions available as part of that can also be limited before they are met with a paywall.

The Times, for example, offers three options: 

  • Basic – this offers smartphone-only access on one device
  • Digital – unlimited access across all devices 
  • Digital with print – the printed newspaper and unlimited digital access. 

You can see what is included underneath each one. The Digital package is the most popular and comes with an exclusive subscriber-only newsletter that the Basic package does not offer. 

While giving options will help increase the chances of them becoming a subscriber, just be aware that too many options could be just as off-putting as not enough. 

Make unsubscribing as easy as possible

We understand that you are trying to get the reader to subscribe, so you don’t really want to be thinking about them unsubscribing. 

However, if the subscription doesn’t live up to their expectations or perhaps they have a change in financial circumstances, then they are going to unsubscribe whether you want them to or not. When signing up to a contract or subscription, we want to know it will be easy to get out of or we may not take the risk. 

So, make sure it is clear that they can unsubscribe if and when they want to and how they do this. Make sure the ‘Unsubscribe’ button is as obvious as the ‘Subscribe’ one and you’ll build trust, helping to ensure the user only clicks on the one you really want them to.

Bonus tip: Ask for feedback from your readers

Along with all of the tips above, it’s important that you get to know your audience. This allows you to understand both the content they want to see in order to both get and retain subscribers but also, most importantly, what they do and don’t like about your website. 

Your content might be incredibly well written on the most interesting of subjects but if your site is difficult to navigate then they may well look elsewhere. So, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback – finding out exactly what users do and don’t like about your site can help form your UX decisions. 

Zephr has been accelerating subscription revenue growth for the world’s leading digital publishing and media companies. Contact us for a demo to learn how to unlock your revenue potential and build customers for life.  


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