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19 Ways to Simplify ‘Sign Up’

Account creation, or “sign up”, is vital to many web businesses - yet it’s a pain for most web users.

Here’s 9, 12, 17, 19 ways to simplify your sign up process and make it more user-friendly.

1) Use my e-mail address as account identifier

Dropbox only asks for your e-mail and then simply uses that as your username too.

Most people have endless user names and frankly can’t remember which user name goes to what site. However, most people have just one, or perhaps a few, email addresses. So instead of having a username, simply use your users’ email as account sign in. But remember to always allow the user to edit his email address at a later point.

One less form field during sign-up, and a lot less users forgetting their “username”. Easier sign-up and easier sign-in.

Note: if you for some reason need a username, then at least allow “special characters” in it so people can use their email address if they want.

2) Allow me to use the password I always use

Instead of disallowing weak passwords, inform your users and then let them make the decision.

Most people have a couple of standard passwords they reuse, and there’s a chance it won’t fit if you require passwords to include either a number, a capital letter or be at least X characters long.

If security is a concern then have a password strength indicator that warns the user when the password isn’t all that secure - then it’s up to the user to judge if the extra security is worth the hassle of creating a unique password just for your site.

Note: there’s obviously exceptions where requiring a strong password is the right thing to do, such as websites that deal with private information or monetary transactions (e.g. online banking).

3) Ask for additional information after I’ve created my account

Twitter ask for additional information after you sign up so they can keep the sign-up form clean and simple.

By asking your users for any non-vital information after sign-up, your sign-up form will be less intimidating and your users will get off their feet faster. Once users start seeing value in using your web app, they start seeing value in adding additional information to it.

Account image, date of birth and country are rarely necessary to create a user account, so consider asking for this kind of information later on.

4) Tell me if the username is already taken

Yahoo suggest alternative usernames if the one you want is already taken.

If an account already exists for the entered e-mail address, then immediately:

  1. Tell the user an account with this email already exists – don’t wait to do this until the form is submitted, do it live.
  2. Show a password field that will sign the user in with this email.
  3. Show a “do you want a new password sent to this email?” link.

It’s very likely the user just forgot he already had an account.

If you don’t use e-mail as account identifier, then suggest other related but available usernames.

5) Do I really have to type “fkr93pd”?

CAPTCHA can be difficult to decipher and adds friction to your sign-up process.

For most visitors a CAPTCHA can be difficult to decipher since the code often carry no meaning and is essentially an eye check and typing exam combined – so don’t use one unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Make an A/B split test to see how much your conversion increase without the CAPTCHA and compare it to the actual amount of spam accounts created. Then make an informed decision based on this data. If you end up needing a CAPTCHA then at least have a look at these 6 CAPTCHA usability tips.

6) Sign me in automatically

An activation e-mail adds unnecessary friction to the sign-up process.

The reason your users create an account is probably because you required them to so in order to do/view/get whatever - so give it to them instantly after they signed up. Don’t require them to sign-in to the account they just created.

Oh, and do you truly need me to activate my account?

7) Make my welcome e-mail easy to find

Make the welcome e-mail easy to find so people can search for it.

It’s inevitable that some of your users will forget their password, so make sure your welcome email (containing both username and a password reset feature) is easy to find later on.

You can do this by having a proper e-mail subject like “Your [app name] account details” instead of things like “Welcome” or “Your new account”. Also, make sure the “from address” has you business name or URL as the nametag, and isn’t a cryptic mail server name.

8) Show me the sign-up form on your home page

Facebook puts their sign-up form right on the home page.

Your sign-up form shouldn’t consist of much more than 2-3 form fields and a button, so if sign-up is the main goal of your marketing site, then there’s no reason to create a separate page for this. Instead show the sign-up form directly on the home page.

When you place your sign-up form on another page, you make the user consider abandonment before she even had a chance to see just how easy it is to sign up for your web app.

9) Give me a good reason to create an account

Sun lures users in with the promise of single-sign-on for their entire site.

Nobody likes creating yet another user account, so at least give your users a couple of reasons – why should they sign up? What are the benefits? The more friction there is, the more important this becomes.

10) Suggestions?

Do you know other tips to simplify the sign-up experience? Then share them in a comment.

Authored by Christian Holst on January 31, 2011

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Ideas Added by Commenters:

10) Use the same form for sign-up and logon (added by Ben Strovold).
Use the same form for signup and logon. Just ask for an email address and then display the appropriate fields (eg. password or minimal signup info). Instapaper gets this right.

11) Account creation form with only one field (added by jcubic).
Account creating form only with one field “email” and new random password could be send to this email with automatic link to account settings (this can be handled by create unique token for the user and put it in url) where user can change the password and set other fields like user name etc. It should always point to settings, so user can change their password if they forget it.

12) Skip account creation and allow me to use OpenID (added by Razor)
One word: OpenID.
I wish it became the standard for the vast majority of websites a long time ago, except for those that could benefit from the added security of a new user/password combination (financial sites, for instance).

13) Let your newsletter be opt-in, not opt-out (added by AHHP)
I’m not interested with your holidays!
Please don’t use my email address to send newsletter or such! Ask me while signing up or let me join by myself…

14) Let my browser pre-fill your fields / don’t use JavaScript fields (added by Thomas Scholz)
Use regular form fields, not some made up JavaScript thingies. Otherwise my browser’s password manager will fail.

15) Show me your special password formatting (added by Anne Dougherty. I’d however add that it only applies when you can’t adhere to guideline #2)
Tell me you require a certain password format (e.g. mix of letters and numbers) right on the sign-up form not in an error message after I’ve chosen a password.
By telling me up front you’ll also lessen the number of times I forget my password since I won’t have to fight with my brain to remember the password you forced me into rather than the one I chose initially. By lowering the barrier to remembering my account details, you increase the chances I’ll come back to your site.

16) Show me where to sign-up (added by David Hamill)
Another option is to favor new users in the design giving registering more emphasis than signing-in. This makes signing-in more difficult than it could be but works on the assumption that you’ll work it out the first time and then understand how to do it. You’re more likely to lose a new customer than an existing one when you add points of friction.

17) Don’t make me enter my password twice (added by Nibo)
You could skip the “repeat password input” and just use an input that shows the actual password as you type it in. One less field in the form. For the users that need the discretion you could always have an option box next to the password input field for toggling its input type.

18) Don’t ask for information that you can obtain other ways (added by Dave May)
If you would like to know the location of the user, but don’t need an exact address (say.. To give to a territory manager), use a service that can get the location from the IP address. 90% as effective and removes 1 to 5 fields over asking for address, zip or country. Obviously less fields increases signup.

19) Don’t clear form data/user input when there’s a validation error (Added by Jeffrey Bennett)
If the user submits a form and it returns an error, don’t make them retype everything! Nothing makes users leave your form faster than having to fill out everything again, because there was a minor problem with the data.

This article has been translated to Korean by eeooD

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