In an effort to get a head start on my digital spring cleaning I decided to take on the task of deleting some accounts to services that I no longer use. It seems a simple enough process in theory, but what I encountered was far from what most folks would call an ideal user experience.

We are all quite familiar with how easy most services make it to sign up for a new account. Large calls to action displayed prominently on a landing page beckon us; “sign up today to begin using the awesomeness we have worked so hard to create just for you!” No problem there, as users are the reason the service exists in the first place. As designers and developers we all want our apps and services to become popular and we strive to funnel folks over to the sign up process. And the User Experience (UX) team typically works very hard to make certain that the sign up process and the tools provided are as easy to use as possible.

One user action that seems unimportant or completely forgotten in the UX process is deleting an account. Why is this action unimportant? I would argue that it’s very important simply due to the destructive nature of the action. Wouldn’t it be a good UX strategy to anticipate that some users may not find the service useful (or just no longer important) and would want to easily delete their account? It’s rather short-sighted and a bit narcissistic to think that folks will never want to leave your service. So why not make it easy for them to leave?

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I hope to provide some useful examples of the various aspects of the account removal process. I’ll start with the downright ugly pattern of account removal (or lack thereof):

See the Pen CqwGo by William Dodson (@williamdodson) on CodePen.

This is completely awful from a UX perspective and from a user’s point of view you don’t ever want us to leave. With no way to delete an account other than emailing the company you have effectively wasted our time and most likely left us with negative feelings about your company. Don’t get me started on companies who offer no way to delete an account and provide no way to contact them. That pattern is so ugly as to be nearly hideous.

The next pattern is only marginally better. At least there is an option to remove the account, but it’s not easy to find:

See the Pen vDJjB by William Dodson (@williamdodson) on CodePen.

Sometimes this action is so subdued and lacking in prominence that the user fails to see it at all (and may resort to submitting a support request for help). This pattern likely results from the company wanting to deter folks from leaving the service. It may also just be a part of the UX process that isn’t deemed important enough for a distinct call to action.

The next pattern makes the removal process very important and even gives the user visual or aural cues that this process is destructive in nature:

See the Pen sceiD by William Dodson (@williamdodson) on CodePen.

If you are a service provider you may be able to reduced the amount of “account removal” support requests by simply making the process easy to understand and prominently displayed. That to me is good UX. I do understand the security implications that may need to be considered when dealing with an account removal by the user (e.g. unauthorized access to the account). I’ll leave the confirmation process as an exercise to the reader as there appears to be no prevailing patterns to this process, but email verification with a link is fine with me.

If you’re going to make it easy for users to sign up for your service then you should make the action of leaving your service easy as well. Your users will thank you and may be more inclined to recommend you to others or to even sign up again if they need your services. Just make it easy for users to leave you if they need to.