Saturday, May 8, 2010

Grammarly: Impressive response to complaints reignites my desire to learn about their service

This post is part of a four-part series on Grammarly.
  1. Grammarly: Misleading website kills my desire to learn about their service
  2. Grammarly responds to my claim that their website is misleading
  3. Grammarly: Impressive response to complaints reignites my desire to learn about their service
  4. Grammarly responds to complaints about not disclosing their pricing
Additionally, you'll find my review of Grammarly for English-learning purposes here.

Grammarly bills itself as "the best grammar checker and proofreader" for English-language documents. Thinking that it might be useful to my English-learning readers, I thought I'd check it out. My initial impression was one of disappointment; I found the website misleading and was quick to write a post detailing my complaints. That was nine days ago.

Grammarly was quick to respond, and that led to a back-and-forth between me, Grammarly, and the commenters on this site, in which Grammarly said that they were going to make some changes to remedy the causes of the complaints.

Well, just nine days since my first post, the "first wave" of those changes has been made and, all in all, they've done an excellent job of responding in such a short period of time to the complaints that were raised.

After the jump, the email that notified me of the changes and a look at the actual changes.

As promised, Max provided me with an update once changes were made:
From: Max Lytvyn
To: Street-Smart Language Learning
Subject: RE: Your blog post about
Date: May 7, 2010 6:08:36 AM JST

Hi Vincent,

I have an update for you. We implemented the first wave of changes to Grammarly:
  1. On the front page, the small print on the start button changed to “free report with no registration” to be more precise. Also, there is a sign-up link in the upper menu to create expectation that sign up may be required at some point.

  2. In the free report, the wording was changed as you suggested (from “Sign up” to “Subscribe”).

  3. On the account registration page, we could not add a progress bar without major changes to the structure of the page (and the page will be redesigned this summer anyway), so we changed the wording from “create your account to access: [list of premium features]” to “create your account to choose a subscription level and access: [list of premium features]”, again to make sure that users are expecting to see payment options on the next page.

  4. We also had the standard email correspondence (both automated and human) audited for compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act – some messages were missing physical address in the footer, but other than that no changes were required here.
Ads with updated messages have not fully propagated yet, but should fully replace old ones within a week or two. Let me know what you think. We will continue moving in this direction, and, as I mentioned before, will try re-introducing fully-featured free trials later this summer. I think it will be the best way to showcase the product without creating any false expectations. I just hope that we will find a set of measures that will prevent abuse while not inconveniencing legitimate users too much. We will also work on increasing the value of the free service and further logically separating it from the premium level subscriptions.

Although the Grammarly team was rattled by a rather negative review of the product in which they take much pride (we have all reasons to believe it is the most accurate grammatical analysis software a regular person can access), this process is beneficial to the company and its clients. I am glad we can handle it in a cooperative way.

Thank you for spending time to provide your feedback and suggestions

So let's start with the before and after images of the relevant portion of the home page.



The "Free report with no registration" is clearly a major change for the better; had this been there when I first visited the site, I doubt I would have had any expectations of getting anything more than a report without registering. However, I still think there's still some room for confusion between "Check Grammar Now!" and "Free report with no registration", but it's much less than it was previously. (It's also odd how the number of documents improved is unchanged over the past nine days; I guess they update that manually from time to time.)

That said, this bugger's still lingering at the bottom of the home page:

I'm guessing that that's going to be made consistent with the top button sooner or later, but for now it could be confusing if someone manages to get down to the bottom of the homepage without seeing the top (which admittedly is probably a pretty unlikely proposition).

As Max mentioned, a "Sign Up" button can be found at the top of the homepage now, and it does create an expectation that sign-up is required at some point, but the core point for me is not signing up but rather paying, so I think "Subscribe" would be better. Even so, when you click through that link, it tells you clearly what you can do without subscribing (more on where that link takes you below), so I wouldn't consider this a major issue.

Once you go ahead and get your report, that's where the next major change is. Here are the before-and-afters:



This is where they changed "Sign up" to "Subscribe", and I think this makes very clear the line between free and not free (and introduces some healthy redundancy with the changes to the button on the home page); from this change alone, it's clear that if I want to move beyond this point, I need to pay.

Let's say you somehow get past both of those pages and still think you're going to get corrections for free. You then get taken to the sign-up page (which is where the link on the homepage also brings you), and you'll see this:

Clear as day, it tells you that you can either view the report again or create an account and choose a subscription level. On this page I think there's a risk that someone might ignore this text as marketing fluff and think that by submitting their email they might get more for free, but it would be a bit unfair to say they hadn't been warned. And if at some point this page does get the kind of progress bar I suggested in one of my emails to Max, that would make it ever clearer.

In addition, on May 15, Max wrote me to describe some more changes made in terms of advertising:
To be on the safe side, we removed any promises of anything free from our advertising. As you mentioned, even “free reports” can be misleading to some, so we just removed it. Current slogan is “English Grammar Checker - Correct All Grammatical Errors And Plagiarism! Check Your Writing Now!” I hope you agree that with this wording a reasonable person would not expect to get everything for free.
By not mentioning free, I would say that most would assume that it is going to cost something, so I think this is a change for the better.

The one big hole that remains after their changes is that you still can't get to their pricing information without first putting in an email. I think this could be very easily fixed with a simple "Pricing" link at the top of the page (in the line where "Sign Up" and "Help / Support" is). That would give users the ability to see how much things cost before diving in any further, and also without requiring any serious disruption to the page. It would probably also help move Grammarly's own page up in the Google search rankings for "Grammarly price", where, as of this writing, my earlier post remains the top result.

So, in summary, while I probably would not describe Grammarly's changes up to this point as everything I hoped for, they're certainly not far off at all. And, even though there may be some spots where there could be more clarity, I think my previous complaint about the website being misleading no longer stands. And with further changes coming soon, I think we can certainly take Max at his word that they'll "continue moving in this direction." So I commend Grammarly for taking these steps, and I look forward to the changes coming down the road.

So, Max, if that upgrade to premium is still on the table, I'd be happy to give Grammarly a look-see for my English-learning readers.

This post was updated on May 22, 2010, to include Max's May 15 email and links to all posts in this series on Grammarly.


  1. Adding "Free report with no registration" is definitely a huge improvement ~ good job Grammarly!

    I'm not personally seeing a big difference between "Sign up" & "Subscribe"; I think that could still be improved on. Think of all of the mailing lists & other things that you can get a free subscription for. "Subscribe" doesn't clearly indicate a paid service to me.

    Similarly, reading “create your account to choose a subscription level and access: [list of premium features]” doesn't really indicate to me that there is not a free subscription level where I can access some of those features. (Is there a free level?)

    On most websites I see that addressed as something like a "premium account", which goes along with their wording of "premium features". If I saw "sign up for a premium account to access __ features", I would definitely assume that it was going to be a paid membership, but "premium features" doesn't seem to have the same effect.

    I agree that a "Pricing" link on the page would be another great step towards clearing up any confusion!

  2. Wow, I definitely didn't expect them to turn around this much. Their other emails made them seem like they didn't care about the issues you had.

    I'm glad to see them turn this around.

  3. @Tharvey: In the case of a mailing list, an RSS feed, etc., I'd also expect "subscribe" to be free. But it'd have to be the kind of thing where they'd deliver information to you regularly for me to expect it to be free. For something like Grammarly, "subcribe" to me would mean some kind of regularly paid fee to use their service.

    That said, I think you're right; using "premium", or perhaps "upgrade", or the like, would be even clearer than "subscribe".

    (And, no, there is no free subscription level.)

  4. It's good that they corrected so much in such a short amount of time and that they were receptive to your complaints. I'd still like to see a sample, but I suppose they're doing it that way so that you can't just upload your novel one paragraph at a time.

  5. If you look at Max's May 15th email in the fourth post in this series, you'll see that you actually can test it out—although you'll have to give up a credit card number to do so. As long as they don't make the subscription automatic after the trial, that's not an unreasonable way to go about it. That said, I'm never a fan of giving out a credit card number just to previous something, and I know that view's shared by many.

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  7. This was useful at the time, but it appears they changed back to saying "Instant report no registration required." This is ridiculous that they would wait for you to post about the changes and then change back.

  8. I tried to register and even paid my money but still was not able to see the specific errors. We traded e-mails and it appears to me that while they are very concerned, they have yet to read any of my e-mails. Is this a Grammarly problem or is this just my bad luck?