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We are developing a website where user registration is paid. My confusion is regarding, whether an email with activation link needs to be sent after the registration is complete (payment is part of signup). Since, the process needs credit card info I would expect that only genuine users shall signup but then it also leaves the door open for email misuse.

What is the usual practice on such sites ? Or should we accept payment only after email confirmation ? The latter shall surely reduce the number of signups ..

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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You have to make sure users entered the correct email address prior to proceeding with the order, otherwise billing information could reach the wrong person or be lost.

Also, just because you need an email address doesn't mean users have to sign up: Should registration be optional on an e-commerce site?


Edit:

If the users need to register prior to ordering, then the email confirmation should be a mandatory part of the registration, without which the account is not enabled and log-in is not possible (with perhaps the exception of logging in in order to correct the email address and resending a confirmation request).

I personally get signed up to sites I've never heard of (with my shorter email addresses), every few months and the processes of attempting to remove the accounts or unsubscribe is very annoying. Besides the hassle, sometimes I end up getting personal information about people I don't know.

In order to prevent this all you need to do is ask the user the users to confirm their emails before activating their accounts.


Edit 2 to address comment regarding UX (to other answer):

Entering the wrong email address (either by mistake or intentionally) is a worse user experience than validation. If the user needs an email to sign up, you might as well validate it.

If the user preforms more than one purchase in the site, you do not want to revalidate the email, so why use a different UX for the first purchase than the others. It also may annoy the users, since they are already signed up, yet to order something they need to do something that isn't related to the actual purchasing.

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I never said that users have to signup just because I need their email. This is a site with paid membership and not a one-time purchase. Use-case here is different from the given link . –  Code freak Jun 13 '12 at 17:45
    
@Codefreak See edit. I am pretty sure I have seen a similar question, however, I couldn't find it. –  Danny Varod Jun 13 '12 at 18:25

Put simply, its bad practice to be accepting money from a user if you have no way of crediting them.

If you accept payment and dont know that their email address is genuine then I guarantee two things will happen...

1) There will be customers who enter a bad email address, pay some money, and then never reap the rewards of their purchase. There will be a percentage of people who never get in touch to explain what has happened, but your reputation with them has just taken a serious hit.

2) There will be a larger percentage of people who DO contact you after paying with a bad email address. You have then just increased your support costs, since youre then obliged to reply to the email, and also spend some time trying to match up their purchase with the now valid email they have provided.

Just ensure that people confirm their email before purchasing, theres no need to introduce so many admin headaches.

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Most of the sites I have used lately are multistep. If a user starts the signup process they fill in there basic information and are sent an activation link email that will take them to a page to complete there purchase. (Pattern I have been noticing as of late, the confirmation page about emails being send contains a like to the users email site. i.e. link to Gmail/Ymail/Hotmail). This also helps prevent the logical break by having to move to another system to complete the purchase process.

This also provides the user with verification that the email address they just used was correct. On your side the this separate users that have and have not finished the purchase process.

To prevent email miss use, my advice would be to added the signup/opt-in feature on the email collection form to track users that want email notifications. This will require a single click opt-out as well to meet federal spam regulation in the US (Not sure if this is an issue for you or not).

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I agree to what you've said but doesn't the extra step of email confirmation cause bad user experience ? How about complete the purchase and then confirm email ? This is a membership site, so users need to come back frequently –  Code freak Jun 13 '12 at 17:51
    
While this might not provide the best user experience, at least providing them with a link back to there email homepage will keep the flow and provide a better user experience compared to sending a user to a dead end page. Also I see a larger benefit in giving the user the additional step to confirm that they used the correct email account. In a single step process if an old, incorrect or deleted email address is used, upon completion of the process valuable information can be lost cause more frustration for the user to contact technical support. –  JeffH Jun 13 '12 at 18:55
    
@Codefreak See answer to your comment in latest edit to my answer. –  Danny Varod Jun 14 '12 at 23:28

Why is it critical to you that you have the user's valid email address? If you do have a valid reason, then I would recommend verifying it. If you don't have a really good business reason why YOU need it, then don't worry about it.

As a user, I'm pretty satisfied with my ability to decide whether or not I want a service provider to have my email address. I will often not use a service that requires my email address if I don't feel like they have a legitimate need to email me.

I think warning the user that their email address is only used for resetting passwords and sending a receipt is sufficient to allow them to enter whatever email address they desire. If you're concerned about typographical errors, have them enter it twice.

Also, as a side note (from a programmers perspective), when you do send the email to them, please please please do not include in this email their password! :)

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On this site, all messages to the user need to be forwarded to their emails, so I think email confirmation is almost a necessity. Still, thanks for your comment and your advice regarding passwords in email shall be heeded :) –  Code freak Jun 14 '12 at 18:35

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