# Please stop the account-bait with circuitlab

I wanted to draw a circuit and export it to a PDF for a university project. I found out about them by a link on this site. When I tried to print, it says

You must save your circuit before exporting.

When I tried to save, it says

Error: create an account to get started.

Ok, if doesn't cost anything, why not? I'm disappointed about what happened when I created the account and tried it again, though

An active Circuit Lab membership is required to save circuits.

Man, that's gross. I understand that "to get started" does technically not mean "in order to save". But why do they need to trick their users with nifty word games? This is a well known bait technique, usually applied in marketing to promise things for no charge. I did not expect Stack Exchange to link to such a fraud site.

• I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it has nothing to do with Circuitlab's functionality on Stack Exchange. – pipe Aug 14 '17 at 5:56
• @pipe I am sorry to teach you things about the meta sites on Stack Exchange, but these sites are not only about "Circuitlab's functionality on Stack Exchange". Not even only about functionality at large. stackoverflow.com/help/whats-meta – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 9:32
• There is a "plans & pricing" link on that same page that gives a pretty good indication it might not be free. I'm sure I'd find plenty of links / mention of SQL/Server on SO and I wouldn't blame SE if I blasted ahead and starting using the free developer edition without any research and then found out I needed a \$20k license to deploy it. I'm failing to see much difference here. – PeterJ Aug 14 '17 at 11:11
• Clearly you're just venting because you barged ahead and used something before doing your homework to find what the limitations are, then got caught. We are not here just for people to whine at when they do something stupid. Your problem with CircuitLab has nothing to do with its usage on SE, so none of this is our problem. – Olin Lathrop Aug 14 '17 at 12:05
• @JohannesSchaub-litb, if you joined CircuitLab early, you could have been allowed to make as many schematics as you want on the free account. Then had them cut off access to all but 5(?) of them when they changed terms, with payment required to get access to your other schematics (or even to be able to conveniently delete the ones you don't want). Just don't use CircuitLab except for quick posts into SE. – The Photon Aug 14 '17 at 17:14
• FWIW I suggest LTSpice (with some tweaking of the drawing settings) for "adequate" schematics, and Inkscape for publication-quality. – The Photon Aug 14 '17 at 17:17
• @olin what exactly is stupid with registering an account in order to be able to access further extended functionality? And what exactly is stupid with complaining when after registration the functionality is still unavailable, even though the website indicates that registration is needed to access the function? – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 17:22
• "Your problem with CircuitLab has nothing to do with its usage on SE" -> functionally the two have nothing to do with each other. But if the goal with Stack Exchange is a good user experience, I see a clear relevance. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 17:25
• @peter I don't think you can find serious software like that which contains dialogs or prompts with wording like "please register an account with us in order to deploy your database / to get started / to continue / ..." which then tells you that registration isn't enough at all. "Sorry, stupid user, you should have done your homework and browse our company website before trusting our UI." – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 17:34
• For the record, I thought that an account is needed, because the diagram is stored on their server and connected with a user name. I don't think that is an unreasonable expectation at all. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 17:40
• There's this thing in OS's called "screenshots" that some find useful in situations like this – Scott Seidman Aug 16 '17 at 1:28
• @JohannesSchaub-litbj, then by all means, don't use it. We can ask the powers that be to not automatically dump you into the circuitlab app when you post a question – Scott Seidman Aug 16 '17 at 11:09
• @ScottSeidman I'm not anymore using it. But I want to prevent my fellow developers to tap into the same bait. I think that the Stackoverflow company or Circuitlab company should do something about this state of affairs. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 16 '17 at 11:14
• I (and others here) like ciruictlab for the most part, it works for what we want to use it for and its simple and free. Last time I checked it takes money to pay developers, if circuitlab wants to monetize stuff on their end more power to them, they need to keep the lights on and put food on the table. We don't pay for anything to have circuitlab on this site so that's nice of them to let us use their code for free. If you have a problem with registration, your more then welcome to write your own circuit simulation software. – Voltage Spike Aug 16 '17 at 15:49
• @laptop2d Then I even understand less of your motivation to post the comment. I too observe that this website's code makes uses of div HTML-tags. But I can clearly see how that's not relevant to this discussion. So, how is your observation that " Last time I checked it takes money to pay developers" or "We don't pay for anything to have circuitlab on this site so that's nice of them to let us use their code for free." or anything else you wrote relevant to the bait I discovered? – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 16 '17 at 17:02

As stated by the OP

I wanted to draw a circuit and export it to a PDF for a university project. I found out about them by a link on this site. When I tried to print, it says

What exactly does this have to do with StackExchange? IF you use the embedded circuit designer (which utilities CircuitLab) you do not need an account and an associated png is uploaded to imgur for viewing.

What you choose to draw your circuit outside of SE has nothing to do with SE. If you do not like the concept of signing up for an account then please do not use Circuitlab. I personally use Inkscape and the circuit library to sketch topologies OR I use KiCAD/Mentor/Cadence if I need to take it further

• "What exactly does this have to do with StackExchange?" -> Bait-Advertisement linked-to by Stack Exchange. For the record: I am totally comfortable with signing up for an account. But I am also totally uncomfortable with websites that trick you into creating an account, only for the purpose of displaying advertisements. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 17:18
• @JohannesSchaub-litb SE is using CircuitLab to help users create schematics for free. You have no proof that SE promotes the "click bait" you mentioned. As a consequence, the fact that SE has a partnership with CircuitLab, a schematic drawing tool which uses said "click bait", is just a coincidence. – Daniel Tork Aug 29 '17 at 18:25

EE.SE doesn't use CurcuitLab exclusively. You can post schematics as images, which means that you can1 use other software, provided that it can produce good schematics. I use Altium, OrCAD, Visio, Eagle, LTSpice for this.

1 In fact, I encourage you to do it.

• This is a good comment, but not an answer IMO. I'm seeking official acknowledgement of this behavior. The Stackexchange company should know about this fraud. Even if there would be 100 alternatives for me to put up diagrams, I don't see the significance, unless the alternatives would be presented in the style of "contains fraud / does not contain fraud". But that's not the case and not the point of your comment, it seems. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 13 '17 at 21:05

Circuitlab is a third party that StackExchange has linked with to make it easier to post schematics. The partnership allows you to use Circuit Lab in the old, no account method that they don't even allow directly anymore. You used to be able to go to their website and use it without an account. Like many other services, they decided to require an account to use.

That said, you can still use it through here, and when you are done, you can save the picture that gets posted of the schematic to Stack Exchanges other partner imgur. You don't have to post the schematic to a question or answer on here. I do it all the time.

There is nothing fraud like going on, just typical web service decisions. Like Pinterest or Flickr or even stack exchange itself where you need an account to use all of the features.

• The point is that they do not only require an account to use, despite their baiting message box. You need a paid membership. It is ok to require a membership if they state that prior to letting their users register an account. They did not. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 9:49
• I think this applies en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bait-and-switch – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 14 '17 at 9:56

Frankly, I don't see damage. If you dislike them having your account info, ask their customer service to delete your account. Then, aside from a few keystrokes, you're out nothing. Your original goal can still be reached with a screen capture.

Circuit Lab provides us with a helpful tool for the site for free. The alternstive is losing a valuable tool for a pretty small reason. I see no problem with charging for more functionality, and I'm not seeing a bait and switch. You paid nothing, you got nothing. Bob's your uncle.

• I don't dislike them having my account info at all. If so, I wouldn't have registered at all. It's the principle they apply to trick people into registering an account that I disagree with. I do not disagree with needing to register or needing to pay in order to use the tool. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 16 '17 at 10:42
• "I'm not seeing a bait and switch." I would like to understand why, though. In your opinion, what is the reason for using the wording "Create an account to get started with saving your sheet" instead of the more clear "Subscribe to a membership in order to save your sheet"? Do they want to be more unclear about the requirements just for fun, then? – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 16 '17 at 10:47
• Saying that I "barged ahead and used something before doing your homework" is absurd. Do I neeed to read circuitlab.com/legal/#terms before I click the "register" button, in order to judge misleading/nifty UI text and know their real meaning? – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 16 '17 at 10:52
• (BTW, that page doesn't even mention the "Save" or "Export" feature anyway, so you would have to trust the UI text anyway, as far as I can see). – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 16 '17 at 11:08

I think this falls to the realm of UX. You expect to have the ability to save your work, by default, while they are not. This expectation may come from the fact (I think so) that most web services allow you to save when you have an account. However, not doing so is absolutely acceptable. The thing to "blame" is the popularity of free saving feature of other web services.

However, I do share with your frustration.

• I agree that it is acceptable. But it is IMO not acceptable to use unclear wording which promises to let you save things once you have a free account. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 23 '17 at 18:52
• @JohannesSchaub-litb yeah, misleading wording makes a difference here? What's their exact wording? From what you quote it seems that they just show you an error, not promise anything. – Ooker Aug 23 '17 at 18:57
• hmm, when you try to save the sheet, the error message says: "Error: create an account to get started (Link opens in a new tab).". The new tab shows "1. Create account. 2. Verify email. 3. Activate membership!". circuitlab.com/accounts/register/?from=anonymous-save . That reads: First you create an account for free, then you need to verify your email, and then something about membership can be activated. But the error message is false. It must say for example "Error: subscribe to a membership to get started (Link opens in a new tab)." – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 23 '17 at 19:03
• Because it means: "First create an account for free, then verify the email and then in order to use the feature, activate a membership". That is supposed to be said on the very first page or even in the error message, before even creating the account. Not in the very last step, when people wasted their time on verifying their e-mail address already. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 23 '17 at 19:05
• I think mentioning them in your post will make it more reasonable to consider – Ooker Aug 23 '17 at 19:20
• I don't know what I should put into my question. I already did put the error message, and the followup-error message after I registered into my question. Please feel free to edit the question to add anything helpful. – Johannes Schaub - litb Aug 23 '17 at 19:38
• To edit it I need at least 2000 rep in the meta. I think a couple screenshots will help – Ooker Aug 24 '17 at 6:02

I understand that "to get started" does technically not mean "in order to save". But why do they need to trick their users with nifty word games? This is a well known bait technique, usually applied in marketing to promise things for no charge.

Actually, I might have found a technical explanation for this behavior, I think. They talk about "get started", because I might not need a membership myself if I'm a member of an university that already has a membership contract with them. And they need my E-Mail adress to check whether I'm such a member.

However I have an advice to improve transparency: On the first page (where the user fills out his contact details), display more information: That the registration for the features isn't complete yet after having an account, but that you might need a paid membership aswell.