One thing that continually pains me on my daily travels around the web is the seemingly relentless requirement to sign up and register to use most websites.
Requiring registration in itself is not necessarily without reason (or merit) – web sites are in a very competitive space these days, and have to strive to provide compelling offerings to their visitors to keep them coming back. But the amount of information they expect a visitor to provide as part of registration is often cumbersome if not daunting.
Large forms absolutely do put people off completing registration on your website. Here are some key considerations to think about when designing your online sign-up or registration processes.
1. Do you really need to know that?
Think carefully about what information you are asking visitors to give you. People are very protective of their personal details. And fields such as Date of Birth, Address, Post code, Phone number, etc. start raising red flags immediately. Unless you have a very good reason for needing to know personal details (an online store needing delivery address for example) don’t ask for that information.
2. Do you need to know that right now?
Consider keeping the information required to sign up as bare minimum as possible – perhaps its just an e-mail address and a password. Then as the registered user starts to use a feature of your website that requires more information, ask for it then. People are far more likely to give up additional small pieces of information on demand if they are already a registered user and therefore have a vested interest.
An example might be a registered user making his first post in your online forums; “Hey there, we notice we don’t have a nickname on file for you yet – would you like to give us one now so you can complete your post?”
3. Provide an incentive to give more information
An approach I’ve seen several sites using is to provide a virtual incentive to providing more information over time. For example LinkedIn will let you know that ‘your profile is 87% complete’ because they have more fields which can be filled with your information. While arguably this is a pretty arbitrary measurement, it is an incentive to fill in that information. It’s surprising how much it motivates people to have a goal (in this case ‘100%’) to reach.
4. Keep private information private!
Accepting personal information about a visitor on your website comes with a moral (if not legal) requirement to look after that information in a responsible manner. Facebook controversy has shown how sensitive people have become to their details being published without their explicit knowledge.
Be absolutely transparent with explanations of why you need to know personal information and what you will do with it. If, for example you have a profile for each user of your website; be clear about what will be shown publicly/what will be shown to other members, and give options to enable/disable showing such information to the user.
These principles can be applied to most online forms, not just registration or sign ups. Filling in forms is no one’s idea of fun. So you, as a responsible site owner should try to identify the pain points in your forms, and make it as simple as possible for someone filling them in.