DON’T ask people to register unless it’s absolutely necessary!

I recently read an article on Webcredible – it was about optimising user registration and, of course, enhancing the user experience.  The article went something like this…

“Do you ever get annoyed at having to make yet another password for one more website? Too many websites still force users to register without good reason, or provide an ineffective registration process. You can avoid frustrating users on your website by thinking about the following points:

  1. Ask users to login or register only when necessary. Those parts of a website that aren’t personalised should be equally accessible by registered and non-registered users. Only ask people to login or register when it’s required to complete an action, not earlier.
  2. Make registration optional where possible. Customers shouldn’t have to ‘create an account’ in order to buy products from an online shop. If a site needs to remember simple previously entered information, this can also be done by using a cookie, which of course requires no effort from the end user.
  3. Prominently explain the benefits of registration. Users will be happier to register if they know that they’re getting something useful, rather than if registration is seen as a barrier between them and their task.
  4. Avoid lengthy registration forms. Another source of frustration comes from questions in registration forms that look irrelevant to the task in hand. Remove such questions and explain the rest e.g. “We need your phone number to notify you in case your flight times change.”
  5. Consider progressive registration. This means asking only the bare essentials in the beginning (e.g. an email address and a password), and enabling users to update and complete their full profile at a later stage.”

Reading this – I concurred with every one of the 5 points.  However, I didn’t feel their warning on the perils of asking people to registere was strong enough!

Having worked on a number of ecommerce sites over the years –  when we monitor where users are ‘dropping out’ of the process – the majority of drop out is around the registration process.

In my opinion – Amazon operate a ‘seamless’ and totally user friendly way of getting users to buy.  It’s simply a case of inserting your email address whether you are a returning customer or a new customer.  Same process – tiny switch of a radio button and that’s it.

It’s only when I go to buy – (psychologically commit to interacting with the site) that I then have to hand over more details.  And, from a consumer psychology perspective, when I’m in buying mode and have committed to the purchase – we are more than happy to share more details – as we recognise that we need to make the purchase and receive the goods.  For that, we will give our address details, our card details, our date of birth – all sorts.  We are much more open to sharing information.

But where we are asked to share details before we’ve even seen the value of the proposition and have committed to buy – as soon as we are asked to share details – the conversation in our head goes something along the lines of ;

” What? Why do they want my email address, date of birth, name etc?  I’m only researching at this point! I don’t want to get email after email spamming me with their sales pitch.  Oh enough of this – I’m off!

If we look at point 2 in Webcredible’s feature – there are still lots of site where it is compulsory to ‘create an account’ – before you can access any information which is required for your decision making process.

I did some research recently in the company credit report arena – and approximately 80% of the sites I reviewed didn’t provide me with basic information such as the price of their reports. Incredulous! And when I called a couple of them to ascertain how much their reports actually retailed for – as I couldn’t find that information on the site – I was advised that it was best I registered and then I would be able to see the information I wanted!  Crazy!  Perhaps they hadn’t bothered to register on their own site and so weren’t too sure themselves!

Plus – the amount of sites asking for an email address – without a ‘why we need this’ link explaining their email policy – is incredibly high!  C’mon – it’s pretty simple to do – and an excellent way of being transparent with your customers and nurturing the all important trust factor.

I always remember, in a previous consulting role, being lectured by my CEO:  “Make it as easy as possible for the customer to buy”.  Online – it’s imperative that our information pathways and signposts and processes are not prohibitive – but welcome the customer on board – which makes engaging with us, or buying from us – a simple and positive experience.

Progressive registration is indeed the way to go. Taking only the bare minimum and then progressively extracting more when the customer is in sharing mode.  From a consumer psychology perspective – once a customer is engaged and in buying mode – they are more than comfortable to share heaps of information.  And if it’s really necessary for your customers to create an account – as that’s where they need to return to access the thing they’ve consumed from you – then fine, but do this as part of the purchasing process – post commitment – NOT before they’re even sure about purchasing from you.  Done too soon – it will most certainly kill the commitment!

“It’s the crazy messed up world of E-commerce videos” from the fab GetElastic – hit the nail right on the head – this amusing video gets the message across – oh so well… Have a giggle!