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In my online checkout process I, like many checkouts, have a field for the customer's email address along with a field to confirm the email address. They are both identical text boxes and accept email addresses. They are both also mandatory.

I have code in place that prevents the user from copying from the Email Address field to the Confirm Email Address field. My questions is - is this bad UX or is this a legitimate way to attempt prevention of an email address being enter incorrectly once and pasted into the next field?

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30  
Important field is important. –  zzzzBov May 8 '12 at 13:26
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Yes, breaking basic functionality is very bad UX. –  DA01 May 8 '12 at 15:13
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I would hate this. I hate having to re-enter email twice as it is and my defacto behaviour is to cut and paste. But that's just me; would love some evidence –  colmcq May 8 '12 at 15:50
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Like many checkouts, I hate you. If I can see a field address, I do not need to enter it twice, period. The second field should NOT exist, and if it must be there, I really should be able to paste into it. I've decided to never visit a site again for less. –  Bill K May 8 '12 at 17:30
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Please confirm this question by retyping it a second time. Just to be sure... –  user unknown May 8 '12 at 20:42
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6 Answers

up vote 138 down vote accepted

If you feel the 'Confirm Email Address' field is required, but want to prevent people copy-and-pasting it then why not take a different approach?

When requesting the user details and email address just ask the questions once. Then, on the final sign-up / payment screen (depending on your application) add a field on this last page stating:

"We will send your confirmation to: _______"

pre-populated with the email address entered earlier, but as an editable field so they can amend it if it was entered wrong before.

This provides another opportunity for the user to evaluate their entry without just blindly cutting-and-pasting, and because you're informing them that you will be sending something specifically to that address they would possibly take more time to read it to ensure it is correct.

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YES - excellent! –  Roger Attrill May 8 '12 at 12:54
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I like this, but be aware that it adds complexity. How do you handle if they enter a different address here? That's not crystal clear. Maybe they want to do the purchase on their office mail but want the confirmation to their private one when given opportunity. –  AndSoYouCode May 8 '12 at 14:08
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@JonW I think your approach with just keeping the new address is good as long as you communicate to the user what you're doing. It's probably the easiest way to do it. My point was that all users come from different worlds and adding smart/tricky things might backfire. The easiest way to prevent it is to communicate to the user what you're doing. –  AndSoYouCode May 8 '12 at 14:22
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@ButtleButkus Just make sure you weigh the pros and cons of forcing your users to enter "billthe_best4932@yahoo.co.uk" two times in a row (possibly on a smart phone). I'm sure this will cause you some loss of clients, my guess is more than you'll lose to people entering their email wrong. –  AndSoYouCode May 9 '12 at 9:59
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I think this approach violates consistency expectations with two controls for the same underlying model data which are separated by time and space. My intuition says that this would yield considerable error upon testing. –  msw May 9 '12 at 12:37
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I would avoid this behaviour as it's breaking people's basic expectations of being able to copy/paste.

October 2011 - an article by blogger, speaker and serial entrepreneur Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten on The Next Web (which he founded) - 10 ways to screw up a web form and piss me off

Number 1 - that's number ONE: Don’t ask people to re-type email addresses

Number 3: Don’t disable copy pasting

Here's some numbers from a short survey. I had a look at over a hundred high profile websites that ask for email addresses in their sign up forms:

From over 100 websites, just 10% asked for email address twice -

Of the 11 websites that asked for email twice, more than 90% allow copy/paste (Facebook, Skype, Amazon, Slashdot, DeviantArt, Ning, Barnes & Noble, Mint, Technorati, Habbo)

while eBay was the only one that did not allow copy/paste (and did not give explanation).

also - I know The Sunday Times (UK) used to ask for email twice but do not do so any more.


Number 2 was: Do enable auto-fill

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This goes back to my point on another question. The form fields that some sites request duplicate entries for is just confusing. We're quite prepared to force people to type in something they know off by heart twice, but fields that require specific accuracy (i.e. credit card numbers) we're quite happy to just assume it's been entered correctly the first time. I see very little benefit in forcing users to re-type anything. Especially on eCommerce sites - nothing actually passes real validation until the product lands on the doorstep of the buyer. –  JonW May 8 '12 at 12:39
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@JonW Usually a typo in a credit card number can be automatically detected without running it, due to the built-in checksum digit. –  Random832 May 8 '12 at 13:06
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@JonW To be fair, whenever I enter things I don’t know by heart, I am extra careful and double check it myself (especially credit card numbers, or other payment related things). And I actually think people are more likely to make mistakes with things they actually know very well. –  poke May 8 '12 at 14:53
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@poke and therefore, when you enter your credit card number you are likely to enter it correctly. Plus the checksum will make it almost impossible to enter it incorrectly and pass. You're more likely to make a typo in what you know by heart and are typing quickly than in what you are carefully entering digit by digit. –  Buttle Butkus May 8 '12 at 21:37
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+1 for the link, although i do not agree with his num 5. I would rather go with a ` -- select country -- `. –  leMoisela Nov 27 '12 at 15:49
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Since the email field is unmasked, the confirmation seems redundant to users.

If the user is advanced enough to copy and paste instead of retyping, the user probably knows his/her address. Preventing copy and paste would just annoy users.

When the user copies the email, the user has to look at what he wrote and thus would probably notice a mistake, therefore, the double typing becomes redundant.

To summarize - yes preventing pasting is a bad UX.

This wasn't asked, but I also think that asking for the email address twice is a bad UX, instead send a confirmation email.

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I'm not sure I follow you. Are you saying it is bad UX, or isn't? The confirmation email field is fairly standard I would say, and is used to check the two email addresses are the same so that email communication to the customer is going to the right place. It's hard to tell if this method of forcing the users to check their email address is preventing bad email addresses being entered. –  crmpicco May 8 '12 at 12:34
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@crmpicco the 'how did you hear about us' field also used to be fairly standard, but that is no longer the case. Just because something used to be required doesn't mean it still is. See a tale of five monkeys –  JonW May 8 '12 at 12:47
    
@crmpicco Yes - a very bad UX. –  Danny Varod May 8 '12 at 14:12
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This is the only answer that hits the nail for me: sending a confirmation email. The reason you're asking the user to be doubly sure they've entered the right email address is so that an email, from you, gets through to them. The only real test of that is to send them an email. Asking them to type it twice, and worse, trying to force them to type it from scratch, is at best an indirect way to try to get to the same result, and is annoying and unfriendly to your users –  MrCranky Jun 8 '12 at 11:59
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Don't do this. Don't even do it for password fields. I use a password database (Password Safe) and I hate sites that won't let me paste a password after I've copied it to the clipboard. I'm trying to be a responsible netizen and not use the same password for multiple sites and not use short, easily cracked passwords either, so don't prevent me from doing so in the only way that's humanly reasonable! For email fields, the suggestion by Jon W is perfect.

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+1 This is hell on mobile. –  Paperjam Jun 7 '12 at 15:32
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I have at least once typed a comma instead of a dot when typing an email address (its a bigger problem for .co.uk addresses than .com addresses) and submitted it.

Rather than requesting the user to type it twice, its better to check the email address programatically. Instead of your standard regular expression checking, there's a fairly full proof method of checking email addresses which is to do a DNS lookup on the domain of the email address when they submit the form (checkdnsrr in PHP).

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I hate it when sites do this. They don't accept characters like '.' and '+' (I think most have already added support for '.'s). Don't decide which characters are legal in your app - that depends on the user's email provider. –  Danny Varod Jun 8 '12 at 12:25
    
@DannyVarod I quite agree, but this is only checking the domain name and nothing else, so its a very loose check but does pickup hotmail,com vs hotmail.com. –  icc97 Apr 22 '13 at 15:01
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Yes, it is a bad UX. In fact it should be just stated clearly that the email you provide is very important and should be entered carefully. Entering two times is a pain. What I do on my site is ask for an email address to send an invitation. The invitation is sent to that email and then the signup process begins. Confirmation at the first step.

But I have a thought against signup through self invites. It may demotivate user because they'll have to go and open the email first. It depends on how important it is to have the correct email.

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This is just the signup I like! Simplicity is key! Many pages just want to opt in users (provide their email) - For a market perspective, its much more efficient for the user to type in one thing. Would be nice to see some actual studies on this. –  Bluewater Jun 7 '12 at 16:52
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