For our Grant Project Micrio: ultra resolution storytelling, we are doing research to determine if Web Monetization would be a viable addition to the current business model. One of the greatest concerns we had when starting this project was paying without consent and the effect that would have on users.
At Q42 we strive to make websites that users actually want to use, so we regularly test our websites with professional testers. Next to testing we also organise something we call Real User Mornings, or RUM for short. In these mornings we test some or our applications with real users with predefined scenarios to see if our assumptions of the UI and UX live up to expectations in the real world. We’ve written about this on our company blog (in dutch), but if you are really interested: we based these sessions on this post by the Dropbox design team.
In non-pandemic times we do the RUMs in person in one of our offices. Naturally this was out the question and after some figuring out we came up with a way that we can do the RUM remotely.
Normally multiple of our people would be part of a user test, with each person having their own task. As we still believe that this approach works for our testing, we needed a way to replicate this remotely. After some preliminary testing with Google Meet, we decided that we needed specific tooling for this and we decided to go for Lookback. Without going too much in depth about this app, it allows us to do user tests with each user on their own device.
As we do not focus on UI or UX for our grant project, we had a different approach to the user test. We had a small user scenario, but we primarily focused on an interview with users that asked about their online habits and if they would be willing to pay for specific content.
Our goals for this session were to find out what users think about online payments, whether they would be willing to pay for online content and what they think about paying without consent. Our user pool existed out of 5 people, ranging from relatively young (<35) to elderly (60+), both employed and unemployed. We acknowledge that the number of users is not large enough to base a real result on, but it is a good first step to see what people think of the concept of Web Monetization.
Before doing the interview we discussed what each of us thought would be the outcome of the interviews. Our primary concerns were that users were unwilling to pay for what can be seen as “browsing the internet”, due to people already paying for internet access and possible subscriptions to newspapers or video-on-demand services and that users would not agree with paying without giving explicit consent.
We assumed that the concept of Web Monetization and Micro Payments in general, would be fairly or totally new to the users we would interview. Therefore we did not introduce the concept of Web Monetization right at the start of the interview. We decided on running 3 primary questions which we changed slightly based on the answers users would give before running the user scenario.
- Would you like to tell us something about your online habits?
- Mention that there is a lot of free content; ask if the user knows how money is made for those websites.
- Ask what they think of those payment models.
- Do you ever pay for reading articles or watching videos online?
- If yes; for what?
- If no; why not AND when would they think about paying.
- Do you think there should be a difference between items or videos that are free and need to be paid for?
Next we would show the user a number of websites that make use of Micrio and let them choose one that they were most interested in (See this website for the options). We did not have any UX or UI goals for this scenario. The goal was to make them familiar with the unique content that the websites had to offer.
After a few minutes of consuming the content we picked up the interview again . We asked what they thought of the website they just visited and introduced the concept of micro payments as drafted in the Monetization API specification. We explained that this concept would revolve around a “wallet” in your browser that would pay small amounts (1ct per minute) as you browse.
- 3 of the 5 people were very enthusiastic about the concept of Web Monetization.
- 4 of the 5 users understood that not all content is free.
- Users were willing to pay without explicit consent, but it should be very clearly indicated (implied consent) and really small payments.
- For some users it mattered who owned the website. They argued that they would allow small businesses or artists, but did not agree with paying large corporations.
Some remarks can also be made that we have projected our biased view of web monetization on the users. In our ideal view on the project, we suggested that web monetization could in theory be a substitute for advertising, paywalls and/or subscriptions. In that scope, users are extremely happy with web monetization.
Based on our user interviews we can see that the concept of web monetization can be promising. Our users seem to be willing to pay (extremely) small amounts for content they consume on the internet. There still are some questions about transparency, where the threshold is for micro payments and how web monetization fits into the current ecosystem of web payments.
In the end we were surprised and delighted to see that for this small user test, our assumptions were incorrect. Users are open to the concept of streaming payments without consent and micro payments for consuming content. So even though our test was limited in its scope and test users, it was still a promising start of exciting new technology for the web.
We are curious to know the results of other user tests on this topic!