We make decisions every second of our lives and take actions according to our decisions but this is the one thing that we are too lazy to do. We are too lazy to decide for ourselves. We choose the default for ourselves and that is what your user does.
Lets take a quick example. By default the privacy settings on Orkut is “everything of your profile is open to all”. On the contrary in Facebook, by default all the privacy settings are “show only to my friends”. And the common belief that goes around is that Facebook is safer and has better privacy than Orkut.
If you look at the Facebook and Orkut profiles of the same person, their chances(very high) that he has locked his photos (and profile) on Facebook and not on Orkut. Well, does this user believe that people on Facebook are more notorious than the ones on Orkut and hence he has locked his photos on Facebook but not on Orkut? Certainly not. I think you got my point. Most of the users do not even know that there is such an option as “privacy settings”. Even if they do, they are too lazy to change and that is what makes Facebook safer than Orkut, default settings.
Its totally in your hands whether you want to make your site more secure or more open. You cannot really call Orkut making a wrong decision by keeping default settings as open. Orkut was the first social network for most of the Indians. Imagine if there was any restriction on seeing photos and scrapbook of other users at that time, would you have taken the same amount of interest in it? Did you not visit every profile in “who visited your profile recently” section on Orkut? When Facebook entered India there was enough hype about social networking sites not being safe (if you understand Press and PR you wouldn’t be wrong to believe that Facebook created that hype) and when you referred to SNS you were talking about Orkut. Hence, the story spread that Orkut is not safe and Facebook is safer, just because it has some different default settings.
All you Facebook users must have seen the flood of Farmville app updates from your friends. You brag about it on twitter but never bothered to block the updates from Farmville. There are chances that you will feel annoyed enough by it and stop using Facebook altogether. So, has Facebook become noisy all together? No. Its just that you are too lazy to decide for yourselves.
The point is that the user is too lazy to make a decision and you can use that to your advantage. I have noticed a free SMS sending site do the same. They ask you to update your profile every 3 months or so. There were some new fields been added to profile page and the default values for those fields were the ones most favorable to them like higher income group, all interests marked yes, etc. Most users would not even care to change those options. They would just click proceed and say, take me to the page where i can send SMSes.
So next time you decide (don’t be lazy) the default settings for your web app do give it time. Whether it is the default city for local search sites or default settings for newsletter subscription, or by default sell travel insurance with flight tickets. Use it to your advantage in short run but play safe for the long run as well.
PS: Recommended talk.
[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]