Design Best Practices for Paywalls

March 5, 2020
Alejandro Cantarero, Ph.D.
A woman is creating sketches of a mobile app

Explore Paywall Strategies: Check out our interactive paywall gallery for examples of  best mobile paywall designs as well as common mistakes.

For many content creators, paywalls can be seen as a risky move. For over 10 years now, content publishers have gradually shifted to using them as a way to grow revenue that is more consistent than advertising. For companies that get the formula correct, the results have been phenomenal! Like many publishers before them, Wired Magazine took a leap of faith and introduced a premium content paywall last year. Since then, they have seen a 300 percent increase in their subscriber base year-over-year and have been open to sharing their results.

The paywall is simple and direct when presented to the customer. It sits at the bottom of the screen waiting to be clicked at any time the reader is ready to subscribe. It is clear and to the point. For me, the design of Wired’s paywall is an excellent example of communicating to readers that there is value in the subscription. As a mature company in a mature market, Wired has had the benefit of learning from others’ mistakes.

Let’s look at a few ways a great paywall design can help impact your subscription strategies. Here are 4 key paywall best practices:

Keep Design Consistent, Personalize When Relevant

If you publish a content-based app, most of your users will reach a point as they navigate your app that will prompt a paywall barrier as they attempt to access a premium specific page or content. When this occurs, it is important to ensure that you maintain content consistency, that can also be personalized at points of conversion. For example, if your user wants to access premium content such as an exclusive article to read, avoid taking the user away to a generic page that offers in-app subscription options. Instead, look at personalizing the paywall with one basic offer and a caption of the article the user wanted to read in the window. Keep the color scheme, fonts, and other design elements close to the original content and consistent with your brand so the change isn’t a drastic shift from what they've been looking at so far.

Keep Your Subscription Options Simple and Test

Choosing the right number of purchase options on your paywall can be tricky. Too many choices are often the most common unforeseen contributor to users clicking away from your digital paywall. Keep it basic. If your product is simple, start with one price for one option and use only one button as your CTA.  If you have multiple purchase options, you may find that adding a third button performs better than just having two.  Try it both ways and see what happens.

Figure out a starting price your app can be tough.  Price too low and customers may think you do not have a premium product.  Too high and they may not purchase.  Research similar apps to get an idea for a starting point.  Be sure to test.  See what happens for a few weeks if you move the price up or down.  You may be surprised by the results of running even a simple test on different price points.

Your Call-To-Action – Make it Clear and Purposeful

What is a call-to-action (CTA)? In digital marketing, this is simply the action you ask your users to do. It could be to access certain content on the website, create an account, or purchase a subscription. They are important because they are what is used in the paywall to drive people to where you need them to go – the subscription page. It’s critical to ensure that it is designed to keep that goal in mind.

Don’t leave any doubt with your users about the purpose of your CTA. To that point:

  • Keep the Focus on the CTA: Eliminate all links or design elements that may distract from the CTA.
  • Choose the Right Colors: Bright and bold colors are great but make sure you’ve got enough whitespace around it to stand out.
  • Page Placement is Key: Your CTA should be prominently displayed on the page. Don’t make your recipients scroll around to find it.
  • Use a Clear CTA: Your button label must be clear and direct. “Subscribe Now” rather than “click here to subscribe”.

Features, Benefits and Offers

This is a perfect time to list one or two of the best benefits users get when they make a purchase. Mentioning a couple of key points on your paywall gives that extra reason why joining would be that way to go. If your offer includes a free trial period, be sure to mention this on the paywall screen. Also, do the same if offering a discount to new users.

There is no point in promising excellent content behind your paywall if you users don’t understand the value of that content.  Free trials and metered paywalls where users get some amount of free content each month are great ways to allow potential customers to learn the value of your product. The aim is to give all users a fantastic customer experience with the app. Now that you’ve created an opportunity for your users to “shop” around and experience your content, moving to a subscription model will be that much easier a decision to make.

As a publisher, the main takeaway here is that the customer experience is as seamless as possible when presented with a paywall option. Your content should be one that is both excellent and willing to be paid for. By taking the time to optimize the subscription process with Nami, we see customer signup rates increase by up to 45%. With an easy to integrate platform, designed to help you succeed, Nami is ready to help!

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Alejandro Cantarero, Ph.D.

Alejandro Cantarero is the CTO of Nami ML. He has built and run data teams at startups and large enterprises. Most recently he was the VP of Data at two large media companies, the Los Angeles Times and Tribune Publishing Company.

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"We spent hours researching the best ways to implement subscriptions and after many failed attempts we found Nami. We were able to go live with subscriptions in our Apple and Android apps in a matter of days."
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Brian Pedone
Quiet Punch
Quiet Punch
"Nami helped us achieve a cross-platform solution for managing and sellingsubscriptions on Apple and Google. The Nami platform was flexible enough to handleour business requirements for in-app purchasing, allowing us to focus on our client'score domain and domain logic.”
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"Nami helped us achieve a cross-platform solution for managing and selling subscriptions on Apple and Google. The Nami platform was flexible enough to handle our business requirements for in-app purchasing, allowing us to focus on our client's core domain and domain logic."
Melody Morgan
Director, Engineering
"We spent hours researching the best ways to implement subscriptions and after many failed attempts we found Nami. We were able to go live with subscriptions in our Apple and Android apps in a matter of days."
Brian Pedone
Quiet Punch
Quiet Punch
"It took a couple of hours to incorporate their easy to use SDK. Nami provides a monetization machine learning solution, a paywall displaying what a user can purchase, and a whole suite of other useful features. As a result, it saved me development cycles so I could focus on other important things."
Mark Lapasa
Android Developer
Toronto App Factory
Toronto App Factory
"After spending a few days trying to implement subscriptions, I found Nami ML. I was able to complete in-app subscriptions within less than 3 hours."
Tanin Rojanapiansatith
iOS Developer

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