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Layout Change Can Make Licensing Agreements More Agreeable


Changing the layout of long and tedious software licensing agreements may not only make those agreements more understandable, but may even make the users like them more, according to Penn State researchers. Participants in a study found that end-user licensing agreements, called EULAs, that contained simpler language and were divided into several pages — paraphrased EULAs — enjoyed increased understanding among end users, according to the researchers.

“Simplifying the layout of licensing agreements — such as by removing jargon, using bullet points and spreading out terms over multiple windows — can help improve users’ understanding of the legal contracts they are asked to read and consent to on a daily basis,” said T. Franklin Waddell, who recently earned his doctorate in mass communications.

Participants who reviewed the paraphrased agreement had a better attitude about the contract, which the researchers refer to as a halo effect. According to Waddell, the halo effect is a tendency for people to make broad but unrelated judgments based on a specific detail or attribute.