In-app permissions: how to make them less annoying for users?

March 4, 2021

Whether you have a smartphone running on Android or iOS, you would have already come across those infamous pop-ups asking for access to your personal data, your contacts list or a whole range of things the app needs to work properly. 

There are two types of users:
Those who reading permissions too quickly and accept them without thinking, and those who are very wary and categorically refuse to accept them.

In Android, permission is requested straight away when downloading an application. The mobile app developers wanted to ensure maximum data security and partitioning for protection from certain pirate applications. So it is up to the user to decide whether they wish to disable some security barriers by granting permissions or whether they refuse to give their data. The choice is limited to accepting of all the terms or not accepting any of them.

This thinking has changed with the new version of Android (Marshmallow), where you can now directly download updated apps without going through the permission acceptance stage (e.g. Shazam, Skype).



Under iOS, these requests are in-app and do not preclude the download of the mobile app. However, a new problem rears its head – the user feeling the pop-ups are intruding into their private life. You only have to go on an app stores to see that most apps requiring too many permissions without any justification get poor ratings (ratings below 3 stars). Many comments mention this intrusiveness or a lack of technical and legal information.

There are some basic principles you should follow to stop users from thinking your mobile app is fraudulent. These will rebuild your reputation of your permissions and make than appear less scary.

Be clear and ask only when it’s necessary

Permission requests are often essential to the proper functioning of the app, even if they can throw some people off. In fact, users are generally worried and mistrustful when it comes to the subject of accessing their personal data. Your application will be quickly uninstalled if you add too many permissions that don’t directly relate to it.

So be clear and transparent about how this data will be used.

Firefox’s explanation is a perfect example as it has a dedicated web page on how it uses each of the permissions related to its mobile app.

It is also common to display these permissions after performing certain actions. For example, if the user wishes to share content on Facebook they should be asked at this point whether or not to give the app access to their social media accounts.

“The user will be more inclined to accept this in-app request because there is an immediate and visible result. It’s the technique of, “If you want to do this, you have to do this first.”

Finally, another method is to request permission twice by changing the action titles. For example, a first popup has the choice between “give access” or “not now” and the second one has two options, “accept” or “do not give access”.

If the user refuses the first message the negative response is partially registered in the system but is not considered final. In this sense, the application asks a second time for permission by phrasing the message differently. Although this may seem more annoying, only 3% of users who click on “give access”, go on to choose “do not give access”.

Reassure and inform the user

Naturally, we are not the types who share our personal information with someone we’ve just met or hardly know. The user experiences the same thing except that makes it harder to learn about the mobile app. To remedy this, it is necessary to foster trust and credibility. An application’s release must be accompanied by the launch of a dedicated website to support the user, inform (legal information, FAQ, contact, etc.) and give a sense of security.

Using onboarding to build trust

Onboarding is a learning process that takes place when first using a mobile app (or while browsing) and intended to as a help guide for the user.

It aims to increase user retention and engagement. However, you can also use it to build the trust necessary to obtain crucial personal information. Let’s work on the assumption that if you offer something special, you have the right to ask for something in return. Responding to users’ expectations by lauding the benefits your app will bring them (value-oriented onboarding) is an excellent way to build a relationship and garner acceptance of permissions.

You can also use humour or an offbeat tone to make it easier to get authorisation. In this case the acceptance rate will be close to 100%, especially if the message is visually appealing.


by Mathieu Laroussi

Filed under App Funding


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