By Travis Pinnick
User Experience Designer | TRUSTe

TRUSTe is preparing to release our updated Ad Preference Manager, a tool consumers can use to opt-out of targeted behavioral advertising, and companies can use to ensure compliance with industry best practices according to the DAA’s self regulatory program for behavioral advertising.

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Consumer Education Content

TRUSTe released the first version of the Ad Preference Manager in late 2010, and since then we have received a lot of user feedback regarding elements of the user experience that were in need of improvement.

The most obvious problem made evident from user testing was users didn’t really understand the purpose of the tool (ie. what it means to ‘opt-out’). When asked in early testing, every user incorrectly stated that ‘opting-out’ either means that they will no longer receive ads, or that the ad providers will no longer track them (technically neither is correct, opting-out usually only means that consumers will no longer receive targeted ads).

Even though the educational portion of the Preference Manager contained a detailed description of how the tool worked, it was clear this message was being lost on consumers. After several treatments of the educational content were assessed, we settled on a simple infographic with which every user was adequately able to describe the purpose of the tool.

Opt-out Interaction Improvements

Another major change in the updated version is the presentation of the companies in the tracker database – a couple of changes have been made to the UI of the opt-out table. A cookie status column has been added to each company to reflect the presence of a tracking / opt-out cookie before and after the user submits an opt-out preference. The table has also been simplified and elevated from its secondary tab position in the previous version, and the concept of a secondary tab section has been removed (all supplemental resources can now be found in the consumer resources section at

The final major change is the user interaction of the tracker opt-out interface. The tool works by submitting the user’s preferences to the opt-out APIs of the companies they selected. TRUSTe can only submit these preferences on behalf of the user, we can’t guarantee a company will respond, and in fact in many cases these submissions fail to receive responses. In addition some tracking companies do not provide an opt-out API, in which case TRUSTe can only provide instruction on how to contact the company. Users of the previous version were confused when opt-out failed or was not offered, or thought it was a failure of the preference manager and were unsure of what to do next. The submission flow of the new release contains detailed explanations of why some opt-out requests fail, and how to take action by contacting or reporting companies who fail to respond or don’t offer an opt-out API.

Future Work
We are excited to be releasing products for consumers that provide choices around the data practices of the sites they visit. If you have any questions or comments please contact Travis Pinnick, TRUSTe User Experience Designer at

Follow me on twitter at @xtratrav.