What is permission priming?
Permission priming refers to the action of ‘priming’ an app user by asking their permission, usually either to send push notifications, or for access to areas of their smartphone such as their camera, location or photos. Providing the user allows access, the permission-priming screen is replaced with Apple’s native system permission screen, where the user must confirm their decision to allow or deny access:
Although this all seems relatively straightforward and valid, we all know how annoying it is to open an app or website to be greeted by a series of pop-ups asking something of us, especially when the app is often asking permission to send more pop-ups directly to our phones through push notifications! Due to this fear of spam and privacy invasion, thousands of users decline permissions every day, potentially affecting the user experience of apps and leading to 25% of app users opening apps once and never returning * (statistic from Google https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/data-gallery/detail/app-retention-apps-used-only-once/). *
Apple’s native permission screen can only be displayed once per feature, meaning timing and wording is crucial when permission priming. Although the user’s permission settings for each app can be changed at any moment on iPhone settings, most users are unaware of this and mistakenly presume they are forever doomed once they decline…
This is why it is so important to gain the trust of your user through permission priming, ensuring they allow access and get the most out of your app… After all, imagine using Uber without allowing access to your location…
Below are some useful tips on finding the perfect timing for permission priming!
When and How should an app ask the Question?
Timing is crucial when permission priming, and if it is not entirely obvious why the app is asking for access to a particular area of the phone, (for example, as obvious as Instagram asking for access to the user’s photos and camera), users are much more comfortable with allowing access once they are familiar with the app… after all, no one likes to give personal information to a stranger. This is why we advise that if it is not clear why your app is asking permission, you allow the user to get to know the app before popping the question, or educate them on why they are being asked for access.
If the permission is non-critical, and would not affect user experience too much if the user denies access, why not wait until the user clicks on the area of your app that requires access to that area of their phone, making it clear why access is needed.
The EBay app does not ask for access to the user’s camera or photos until they attempt to attach photos to an item they are selling, making it entirely clear why they should grant this permission. The app also provides a small explanation, educating the user and gaining their trust.
Effective permission priming means asking and educating the user in context, ensuring they understand why they are being asked for access, and they have been given time to gain familiarity with the app. The key thing to consider when planning your user experience is when and how to ask permission, allowing your user to feel confident enough to allow access and therefore get the most out of your app.