By Paul Ramsey, senior account director, GlobalReach Technology
Team GlobalReach had a busy weekend. When we’re on the road, we screenshot and share the best and the worst of the Wi-Fi captive portals we come across.
Public Wi-Fi experiences have developed in recent years, and this weekend’s prime offenders served up some bad examples when it comes to Wi-Fi captive portal design and service delivery.
We travelled to some new towns and cities – but also to some major tourist hubs where the Wi-Fi experience should be treated as part of the brand. If you’re recommended by Lonely Planet as a smart and upmarket destination, you’d better be sure that your Wi-Fi reflects that.
Whether it’s a rail operator, a town centre, a cafe, a bar, a shopping centre or a sports stadium, the ease with which people can get online (not to mention the quality of the service they receive) will affect their ratings and likelihood of visiting again.
GlobalReach has been delivering expert captive portal services since 2009. Our experience has been used to build our new Trusted WiFi cloud WiFi platform, along with custom Wi-Fi services for some of the world’s largest places and brands. We recommend good captive portals that are non-intrusive, ask for minimal user data and are easy to use.
Here are some mistakes that we see used by the bad and ugly, and how to avoid them:
Mistake #1: The Wi-Fi login experience doesn’t fit the venue or place
The way that people access a Wi-Fi network should always suit the use case. Since we deliver the Wi-Fi service for some of the UK’s largest railway stations, let’s talk transportation. Passengers are typically carrying bags, potentially children, they’re ‘on the move’. It’s possible that they might need to transfer, catch a flight at the other end or experience a delay. This may make them anxious, frustrated and stressed. What they don’t need is complicated forms, lots of fields and hidden login buttons. There’s a trend towards sleeker one-time click sign-on experiences that meet the user type whether you’re an airport, town centre, shop or music venue.
Mistake #2: The captive portal wants unnecessary or personally-identifiable (PII) data
We see a growing list of suppliers out there that bill themselves as email marketing platforms, collecting Wi-Fi user data to add to a marketing list. Our platform can do this, and if the end customer has a business reason to collect this information, then that makes sense. The questions that the Wi-Fi service provider and venue should ask are:
- Is it necessary?
- What does the venue or place want to do with this data?
- How is it stored?
- Could this be detrimental to the users; Wi-Fi experience?
Brands and venues have been sold a vision that asking for consumer data is justified in return for providing free Wi-Fi access. But if you’re not 100% clear about how secure this is, and whether the field is necessary, it’s probably not.
Instead, have you considered the loyalty benefit of providing a frictionless, easy-to-use Wi-Fi service that doesn’t ask for PII?
We work with one of the world’s largest coffee chains, and several major transport hubs that take the view that one-click Wi-Fi access is a better customer experience. Terms and conditions are accepted along with this click, and you’re minimising log-in screens to one or two, as opposed to an average of four, when forms have to be filled in and marketing permissions collected. A better user experience all around.
Mistake #3: Be clear about who the service provider is (and who holds the data, if you’re collecting it)
One of our team members used a captive portal at the weekend where the service was clearly branded as being provided by the city’s local authority. She was surprised on the next screen, to be told that a third-party supplier would be collecting her data. Don’t give your user surprises. It damages your brand and you should be transparent about this on the first login page.
Mistake #4: The design is terrible….!
It feels like we stumbled across a lot of bad Wi-Fi last weekend, but one stuck in the memory for being all one colour, with no branding for the actual venue, and where it was really (really) hard to pinpoint the login button.
If you’re investing in offering public Wi-Fi, you’ll want network users to know and appreciate the service quality. Take pride in designing a great user experience, that’s branded and easy to use. It will increase the likelihood of users returning. We recommend:
- Call the service (the Wi-Fi SSID) something obvious
- Make your captive portal sleek
- Brand it to the venue
- Light on the text. BIG on the buttons: Make it easy to get online
Mistake #5: It breaks the law
There are two notices that captive portals must display to users. One is a link to the terms of conditions of using the Wi-Fi network. The second is to let users know how their personal data is collected, stored and used in compliance with local data protection rules like GDPR, UK GDPR and CAN-SPAM.
To protect both the service provider and user, terms and conditions must be explicitly accepted before login. We recommend a box on the very first splash page. Support this with easy-to-understand conditions about what people can and can not do on your network, and importantly what they should expect from you (especially if you have decided to collect PII for future marketing purposes).
A typical checklist should include:
- Acceptable use policy
- User account suspension and cancellation
Talk to us about using our Trusted WiFi cloud Wi-Fi platform to quickly design and take your services to market. Our platform is purpose-built for broadband carriers and managed service providers, to quickly launch Wi-Fi services for their customers. Founded in 2009, we simplified the core elements of our established GlobalReach Wi-Fi management platform, making it available as this new self-service, cloud-based solution.