Misleading VAS UI Design

December 2nd, 2008

The number of mobile users in India has topped 310m and increasing at the rate of 1m every week. Increasing competition bringing down the calling rates. In this scenario, Value Added Services (VAS) have become significant revenue source for mobile operator. These value added services are being provided to end users via SMS, MMS, Push Messaging, voice portals, WAP etc.

User is being lured by massive advertising and promotions to use these services. Sometimes operator do not tell the complete details of the service or if they tell the steps are so complicated that an unaware customer can’t understand. Users land-up paying money sometimes for nothing. 
Example: Reliance Mobile Launched a VAS called “Call me |93 231 33333”. The advertising campaign shows celebrities asking viewers to call them to know about their caller tunes and to subscribe caller tunes services (A caller tunes is some music instead of Tring-Tring which a caller listen while calling other user). When you call on such a number you hear some music (celebrities caller tune) and than a recorded voice “Hi I am Riya, like my tunes you can get one too, just follow the instruction coming up” Instruction: To set this as your ringback tone press 1. To choose many more caller tone dial 1234 and it goes. 

 Bad Design Details:

  1. The voice portal design is such that it forces user to use the service. At every steps it asks the user to press certain number to continue. It leaves no options to exit, more info, help, and talk to customer care etc.
  2. During subscription and after subscription the service/ service provider does not inform about “How to unsubscribe”. User has to call customer care. Even customer care executive don’t do it for a user. Customer care will ask you to send an SMS “UNSUB” to 1234 to unsubscribe.
  3. It auto renews the subscription every month without calling / sending an SMS to user.
  4. The usage cost of these services is as high as Rs. 6/- per minute (Like making an ISD Call).It pressurize one to make quick decision, this also increases the rate of errors.

In short it can be said that some of the design decision has being taken in order to maximize revenue. These design decision leads user to forcefully use the service or sometime leads to make mistake which increases the revenue to telecom operator.

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