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I work in a newspaper publishing company and currently, all the contents in our site is free and no user registration is required.

Recently, the lifestyle column team propose to implement a small and simple portal where viewers can make simple suggestions as to where to dine. The team then suggested to implement a simple user registration; asking for name, email and password. Or if they do not want to register for an account; they can login with their Facebook account. This is so that they could keep track of who suggested what.

However, I think this is counter-productive as we don't really provide any value in return. As the team said, they just want to keep it really simple.

As such is it really feasible to implement a user registration in situations like these?

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migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com Sep 12 '11 at 14:53

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6 Answers

This is essentially a transaction: (the team hope that) visitors provide some simple details in exchange for the opportunity to contribute / respond.

It's a common pattern across many websites, especially in newspapers and publishing, and it's not unreasonable. So visitors to the site may not be unduly concerned or surprised (though I can't say for certain without talking to your visitors).

The visitors do get value from the registration - they get to participate and contribute, to share their ideas: The Guardian set up a dedicated site for exactly this kind of thing http://www.ivebeenthere.co.uk to manage recommendations for travellers.

Starting off the conversation can be difficult - few people want to be the first in the room to get up and speak; you may need to seed content yourselves and add your own comments to help stimulate more suggestions.

Asking for registration details is likely to lead to fewer contributions than you would otherwise get - and the more details you ask for in registration, the fewer people who will complete registration, so make sure that that is kept as light as possible.

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You do get some value from user registration. For instance, if they don't create an account how would they edit their posts?

However, if it's something as simple as leaving little blobs of text, and no one has a need to claim ownership of a particular blob of text in the future, then yes, registration is too complex.

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Look at the Stackexchange sites. OpenID isn't perfect, but it sure is a lot easier than many of the alternatives. You do offer some benefit, after all: the ability to group contributions by contributor. So the only thing you need is a reasonably secure way to establish Identity. Authentication you can delegate (i.e. OpenID) and Authorization is not needed.

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You do provide value to the users: The ability to have their contributions associated with them in a persistent way, which allows them to see that some set of comments have all been made by the same person. By extension, this also has the possibility to allow ongoing conversations in the comments, since you know you're talking to the same person the entire time. Depending on your software, you may also be able to provide email notifications to users when there is further discussion of something they've commented on.

If you want to "keep track of who suggested what", you could also provide additional value by having your marketing department conduct periodic promotions - give a $20 restaurant gift certificate to someone who has submitted restaurant reviews, etc.

On the other hand, you don't want to create a barrier to contribution, so I'd also suggest that registration should be optional and users should be allowed to post anonymously if they don't want to make the effort of creating an account first.

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You are absolutely right that asking for registration when the user gets no benefit from it is wrong, and will result in many less people using the features. Therefore you need to consider how the interaction goes and what benefit the user should get from this.

In this case, the user does need to get some benefit, and they do because their reviews can be traced back to them, and so their credibility or reputaion can be assessed by other readers - if I go somewhere that you recommended and enjoyed it, I will be interested in other places you recommend. This credibility, similar to SOs reputation, is something some people will pursue.

OTOH, there will be some who will not want to register, so there is a place for recording reviews without registering. It might be worth having these reviews assessed, which gives another benefit of registering, that ( say ) after the first review, they go up immediately.

Using OpenID or similar should be an option worth looking at, because the registration process needs to be as simple as possible - the benefits are not huge, and the benefit to the paper is far greater, so registering needs to be very simple and straightforward.

You need to balance the benefits achieved - or potential benefits like gifts for regular contributors, as @Dave Sherohman suggested - against the work required to perform the registration. The research is very clear that if the benefits are not clear, then registration will prove just a barrier, and registrations that you get will be poorer quality ( duff information provided, for example ).

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Off topic, but awesome username! –  Matt Sep 15 '11 at 8:45
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One study found that for e-commerce sites removing compulsory registration resulted in a 45% increase in sales.

So rather than "does this add value?" you should ask your team "does this add 45% more value?"

Joel on Software has touched on this as well here. It's on the bottom of the page under "Q. Why don't you have a registration scheme to eliminate rude posters?"

Edit: Perhaps all you really need is a Captcha? While this may be a controversial suggestion, it provides a smaller dose of the "is this really worth posting?" mentality to your users that you would get from compulsory registration.

Edit2: Changed first link to go to original source rather than secondary description.

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Interesting - I'd read the article before, but I like the reverse thinking behind being able to put a valuation on the absence of something. It's a consultants dream - swoop in and add value by using the delete key! –  Roger Attrill Sep 15 '11 at 14:54
    
+1 Great info here! –  Matt Rockwell Sep 15 '11 at 15:41
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