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I run a social learning network that enables anyone to create a class/ workshop on almost any non-academic topic and allows users to register online. Anybody can be a teacher or learner. Its free.

We are getting a lot of visitors. The feedback on the design etc has been phenomenal. However, we are getting very few "users" – very few visitors are actually registering for classes.

How do we convert people who come as browsers to people who actually sign up and use the platform? Any tips?

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Could you please let us know what sort of conversion rates you are getting here. Share the data and you will get better responses. – JohnGB Oct 20 '11 at 10:06
I have removed some of the specific information from the question to make it more generic and useful to other people as this UX site isn't for getting specific critiques on individual sites. – JohnGB Oct 20 '11 at 11:01

wont repeat what John said above but I will add:

Avoid forcing users to sign-up before they can register for a class. This is a high risk approach as it places a barrier between you and the user.

Think very carefully about why you need separate registration and sign-up. I say they should be one and the same and as painless as possible eg did you see how easy it was for you to login here?

caveat: If the instructor needs more information about registrants then these questions can be directed as messages to the user profile.

summary: Eliminate sign-up; On class registration and if not already logged in, login with facebook; Do not ask for any extra information than is absolutely necessary.

hope this helps

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yup, look to see if you can apply the "lazy registration" design pattern. – Erics Oct 20 '11 at 10:25
Well sign up is to become a member of the site, have your own profile etc.. Register is to register for a specific class. We aim to build an interactive network where you dont just simply send the teacher your name and phone number, but have your own profile and manage your classes that you are learning and teaching, give ratings etc. – Vishad Oct 21 '11 at 9:00

There are two basic questions that always apply, one of which I can answer for you and another only you can answer.

Is your site targeted?
Taking a look at your website, it doesn't appear targeted at all, which makes it very difficult to qualify traffic in the first place. By making it very broad, you end up hiding the few courses that I may be interested in among all the courses that I'm not interested in. If you were dealing with something more specific, like cooking, it is much more likely that someone interested in cooking would convert, and a high percentage of your content would interest them.

Your site seems to be a fairly eclectic mix of topics which do very little to add value to each other. You should consider narrowing your target down to a specific topic area. It is always easier to expand into new topic areas once you are doing well than it is to enter all of them at once.

Is your traffic qualified?
By qualified traffic, I mean traffic from a source that is relevant to your website. It's fairly easy to get general traffic to a website, but that traffic has almost no conversion.

Imagine two scenarios. In the first you get 1 million unique hits from advertising on a torrent site. In the second you get 100 thousand hits from links on a number of blogs dealing specifically with adult learning. Which do you think is more valuable? The second one of course, as they are far more likely to convert than the first.

If your site isn't targeted, it is going to be very difficult to get qualified traffic in the first place.

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Thanks John! We are averaging 100 visitors a day - we've just launched last week. Conversions to register for classes are extremely low... about 2% or so. As for being targeted and having qualified traffic.. our site is for ANYBODY who wants to learn something and anybody who has something to teach - that you cannot learn in school or college.. things beyond academics. similar to Skillshare and SchoolofEverything – Vishad Oct 21 '11 at 9:07
@Vishad: And that is very un-targeted, so you will find it very difficult to convert. – JohnGB Oct 21 '11 at 10:40

*Provide answers to common user questions at the top of the page, not at the bottom; ensure all the really useful information is in prime position and not, say, in the footer.

*A site needs to be able to quickly show that it can provide value; benefit; reward; return on investment.

*Add recommendations from happy users - tell a success story - show it works.

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with the edit to the OP, this answer makes no sense. I'll edit if I have time...edited but had real trouble with last paragraph which I've taken out. feel free to revert. – colmcq Oct 20 '11 at 11:35

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