When offering a web service to the public, the overall goal is usually to gain as many users as possible. How successful you are, depends on a number of factors, such as appearance, usability, price, coolness, etc, etc. But there are more to it than that. Getting new users can in simple terms be divided into just two crucial steps. 1: Make your users tell other people about your service. 2: Make people register when visiting your page for the first time. If you are successful with these two points, we believe your service will become a hit. Point number 1 is up to you, this article discusses point number 2: Making people register the first time they visit your page.
The tedious work of registering your e-mail, username, address, etc at web service is something people tend to dislike. This is especially true if the new service asks too many questions. Take phone-numbers. How many times have you entered your phone number in one of these forms, and then how many times have you been called as a result of that? Probably none. So why did they really ask for it in the first place? Facing the creation of the signup-form for yast.com, we took the time to rethink the traditional design. How can we annoy the user as little as possible, and by such raise the chance for a new user signing up for our service? We have no statistics on this, but we believe that offering new users a very simple signup will make him or her think something along the lines of; “Oh, they aren’t asking for the usual bullshit, maybe I should give it a go anyway..”, and by this give the user sort of a positive feeling about the service. This is what we came up with:
1. Our particular service (yast.com) needs to know the following information about a user:
- E-mail address
- The password one more time(for confirmation)
5 different things. Traditionally, we would just asked for all these five things line by line in the signup form. However, this is where we believe we can possibly loose potential users. The questions to ask to ones self is: “What do I really need to know right now?”. In our case, the first issue is to just make the person visiting our site sign up. It doesn’t matter if we know neither the name, email or the password of this person. It is much better to get a new user that you don’t know anything about, instead of not getting anything at all. The idea is that if the user is just pass your doorway, you can ask him or her more questions at a later point, when you really need to know the stuff that you’re asking for. For example, we’re providing an online time tracker (http://www.yast.com). When producing the pdf time sheets, we need to include the name of the user on the sheet. If we wait until the user actually requests a time sheet, the user will most likely understand why we need to know his or her name. This means that the user will actually give us his or her name. An additional benefit is that the user is much more likely to enter his true name instead of just something like “adsfasdf”. Simply because the users can see the direct benefit of entering his true name. Using this principle, we get more reliable information, and avoids annoying the user.
Now, back to the signup form. We concluded on that we need just two fields in our signupform:
This is the reason that we can announce on our first page that signing up with us takes about 8 seconds. Now, you probaly wonder how we could remove the second password field. This is how we thought:
- Despite that the user can’t see what he or her is typing, it is likely to be correct more than 50 % of the times. So its better do handle the less probable outcome with a special case, instead of the opposite. Whenever the user enters the password incorrectly, he will not be able to log in the next time he tries. As we offer a “forgot password”-option, this issue will be resolved in all the cases that the user entered a correct e-mail address. In the cases where the user both entered a bogus e-mail and a miss-spelled password, we ask the user to create a new account.In the latter case, the risk is that one can poetentially loose data entered into the system right after he signed up (and didn’t need to provide his mis-spelled password). However, we believe that this is a small offer compared to the benefints of presenting only two fields in our signup form.
- The e-mail field is used to fill in both the e-mail field and the username field. This is done because most users will never need to know anything about any username. People forget usernames, but they remember they email address. We check if the e-mail address entered is valid, but we don’t deny the user to use if its not an email address. We’ll let the user know incase it was a mistake, but we’ll still allow to use it. Again, better to have a user with a wrong e-mail address than no user. In cases where the user wants to use a username, he can change this in page settings at a later stage.
We hope that these simple princples can be of use for others that are creating web services. We at Yast.com believe that doing this is crucial to survice in the ever more demanding web 2.0-world.
Thanks for reading.