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I've got a site (e.g FooBar) and 1 out of 2 users registering never activate their account (via clicking on an email link) so I'm trying to improve this.

The flow is pretty standard:

  1. user lands on my signup page
  2. user enters email, password, password confirmation and hits Sign Up
  3. an email is dispatched to the user with the activation link:

    Subject: Activate your FooBar account
    Body: You've successfully signed up to FooBar.

    To activate your account please click http://www.foobar.com/a/sdj923ujf845

    Thanks,
    FooBar

  4. a modal message comes up:

    Instructions on how to activate your account have beem emailed to you. Please check your email.

  5. user has to open email from inbox and click on link

What I've done so far to improve on this:

  • solved mail delivery issues of [3] (emails landing on Junk/Spam folders especially at yahoo and hotmail accounts)
  • improved the message visibility of [4] since I converted it to a large modal message which the user can't miss
  • made sure the content of [3] is simple and standard

My target audience is not tech savvy so I'm afraid that they don't understand the content of [4].

How could I improve the message? Would including the user's email address in the message make it clearer or worst? e.g:

Instructions on how to activate your account have beem emailed to your joe.doe@gmail.com email.

I've even thought of going wild and making the user's email in the message an active link pointing to the mail provider page (e.g joe.doe@gmail.com would point to http://gmail.com/) to make it even easier for the user but that would probably be too risky.

Note that I haven't got too many registrations per day to run an A/B test (Google WebsiteOptimizer style) to test the performance of different messages so I'm doing 100% guesswork here.

Also I'd love to go the verify later route but in this case it's not possible.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 42 down vote accepted

Instructions on how to activate your account have beem emailed to you. Please check your email.

The word "instructions" may be scary to some people. It makes activation sound more complicated than it is. I'd suggest changing the message to this:

Almost done...

We've sent an email to joe.doe@gmail.com. Open it up to activate your account.

A couple of reasons for this:

  1. "Almost done..." is an attention grabber that makes it obvious that they're not done.
  2. The activation process really is dead simple. You could be verbose and list the steps. But it'd be kind of like the instructions for pop tarts -- it's really unnecessary. In this case I think it's better to simply state their next step.

And I have one more suggestion. You mentioned that this appears as a modal message. This may be part of the problem. People have a tendency to close modal messages or dialog boxes without reading what they say. If you instead add the message inline with the rest of the page (and make it stand out), then it might work better.

The simplest example might be something like this... enter image description here

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1  
Fantastic! I love the rewording and the reasoning behind it. Regarding the modal, it used to look like stackexchange's or twitter's style of messages (100% width, strong background, fixed positioning on top) but I changed it to modal to grab the user's attention and it actually did improve my conversions (from registration to activation). –  cherouvim Mar 14 '11 at 7:03
    
@cherouvim - It's been a couple months. I'm curious what changes you've made and if you've observed any improvement. –  Steve Wortham May 6 '11 at 18:03
4  
I used your exact message in a modal. The registered-but-not-activated users dropped to 5-10% and before this they where around 25-30%. Your advice was simply superb. Thanks again. –  cherouvim May 6 '11 at 19:43
    
@cherouvim - Awesome, I'm glad it worked for you. –  Steve Wortham May 6 '11 at 20:49
8  
Virtual -1 for Comic Sans –  DaveP Sep 10 '12 at 14:59
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I think there is another problem which keeps some users from activating: Your message body starts with

You've successfully signed up to FooBar.

Since users do not read there are chances they only see "successfully" and think no further action has to be taken – despite your subject line.

Instead, you should start with a clear indicator that nothing will be successful unless they click the link:

Please activate your account by clicking the following link:

http://www.foobar.com/a/sdj923ujf845

Thanks, FooBar

Additionally, this makes your link appear in a single line on its own and makes it stand out.

If you want, you can send another email telling them they have been successful after the activation. :-)

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Excelent advice. Thanks a lot. –  cherouvim Feb 25 '13 at 10:19
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Steve's answer is great, but my opinion is to add a large "Activate" button in the email using CSS so it attracts attention. Usually when I'm reading an activation email I look straight for the link.

Use smaller text and a normal hyperlink if there are additional steps required to activate an account.

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Agree. If you are able to send out HTML mails use a button with a clear call to action. –  Steffen Kastner Mar 19 '13 at 18:35
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Can you confirm that the majority of non-activated e-mail adresses are legit? Not just people that "want signed up priviledges, but don't want to reveal their e-mail"?

Suggestions:

  1. Rename "Activate Account" to "Confirm e-mail". This helps your audience to see why this step is necessary.

  2. Make "e-mail not confirmed" a disctinct state. Even if you can't bind limited rights to it, make it visible to the user when s/he navigates your site.

  3. I'm with Vitaly's suggestion to show a screenshot: "We've sent the following message to joe@doemail.com:". However, make sure the link does not look (or is) clickable in the screenshot.

  4. Allow multiple activation links be sent, accept older ones.

  5. Consider sending a reminder after 24h. I'd go for a single reminder, to not look spammy.

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All these are great suggestions. Thanks a lot. In particilar the 4th in which my system currently suffers (new activation or password reset links cancel the old ones and this can be very bad for the users). –  cherouvim Mar 14 '11 at 16:05
    
@cherouvim: I expected that from the typical implementation (have a single field, rather than a list, of activation links), and the struggles I had with this on different sites when mail delivery is delayed. --- A simple solution would be to re-send the previous activation link, or one that looks different but still matches the DB key. –  peterchen Mar 14 '11 at 17:18
    
Thanks again. If I could accept 2 answers I've done it. –  cherouvim Mar 16 '11 at 5:40
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I'd improve a little on your idea of using the user's email address to point to their webmail, by providing a call-to-action button within the message. Not a link, but a big fat shiny button "Go to Gmail". Come to think of it, it's a nice way to phish :).

Maybe you can also insert a screenshot in the message, showing the email with an arrow pointing at the link inside, but that's probably overdoing it.

Also, in the email body, you should also use a call-to-action. Make the "click here" a link as well, and put the actual link in parentheses after the text. "To activate your account please click here (or point your browser to http://www.foobar.com/a/sdj923ujf845)".

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I actually like the screenshot idea. Any time you can make something seem preschool-simple it's actually a good thing. –  mskfisher Mar 12 '11 at 13:32
    
BTW the active "click here" link is not possible since I send text/plain email (because I want 100% delivery). –  cherouvim Mar 12 '11 at 15:15
    
I think the call-to-action button in the email is very important –  AbdelHady Jun 18 at 16:55
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I think you can improve it by explaining why you are forcing them to activate their account, and then break it down into steps. For example:

Thanks for registering but before we can let you in we have to check that we have the correct email address for you. To help us can you please follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to your email account
  2. You should see a new email from us "emailcheck@foo.com"
  3. Open the email and click the "Email check" link. This will load up foo.com and confirm your email address.
  4. Thats it! You will be able to use foo.com
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2  
It's a nice thought, but it's really wordy to do explain you're reasoning for things like this. First, the reason for activation is probably not what people are getting hung up on. And even if it was, long instructions like this should not be at the forefront of the UI (or even a modal dialog box). It's just too much to read. –  Steve Wortham Mar 13 '11 at 20:30
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