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So the company wants all the information it can get on the users of its site, but how much should be asked for upon registration?

On one hand, it would be easier for the users to enter only personal details once. On the other hand, this can lead to distrust by the users: Why do they want this information? Do they don't need it?

For example, if the user wants to buy something, an address is needed. Should this be asked when the users register, to make buying stuff easier?

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See also ux.stackexchange.com/questions/6133/… –  Patrick McElhaney Apr 19 '11 at 14:41

9 Answers 9

up vote 58 down vote accepted

Here's a must-read article -- BestBuy saw a $300 million increase in annual sales via their online store by not requiring users to register at all to buy products (this means they would have to enter their address, etc. every time they bought something). If that's not enough,

Later, we did an analysis of the retailer's database, only to discover 45% of all customers had multiple registrations in the system, some as many as 10. We also analyzed how many people requested passwords, to find out it reached about 160,000 per day. 75% of these people never tried to complete the purchase once requested.

This speaks volumes against requiring user registration at all. It makes sense for something like Amazon, where customers frequently re-purchase things, but not so much for... well, most other online stores. If you're not convinced, consider these two scenarios -- which is worse for the customer?

Scenario 1:

  • The user buys something & enters in address, billing info, etc
  • Six months later the user wants to buy something else
  • The user must re-enter address, billing info, etc.

Scenario 2:

  • The user buys something & enters in address, billing info, etc
  • The user is also told to register and must think up a password
  • Six months later the user wants to buy something else
  • User clicks "register" and thinks up a new password
  • The user is told the e-mail address is in use, and to log in with a password
  • User looks for tiny "Forgot Password" link
  • User must enter e-mail address a second time, because none of these sites ever remember the thing you just entered
  • User needs to answer a "security question" -- did she make a typo on the name of her elementary school when she was registering? it was never verified... If so, she's now locked out of your site forever
  • User goes to Gmail/Hotmail/etc (and away from your site -- will she return?)
  • User needs to think up a new password
  • Oops! I've moved! How do I change the address in the system?
  • No, not the billing address, just the shipping address!
  • ...

Or maybe the user uses the same password for everything (as many do -- including me at this point, despite being an IT professional). This is an obvious security risk, since it's easier for someone to get hold of the password if it's used for everything, and this password now opens up access to addresses, possibly billing info, etc. via your site.

DON'T REQUIRE REGISTRATION! -- If you must, consider something like Orbitz does, where you can optionally register by entering in a password on their registration form. In addition to saving your data for repeat purchases, you can also log in to check your flight status, something customers might want to do.

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I think the best-case scenario is this:

  1. Don't ask for any information until the moment you need it.
  2. Make it always easy for the user to give you whatever information they feel like sharing.

These rules apply to both initial registration and acquiring additional details after registration.

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Consider the lazy registration design pattern. Basically, it defers registration until it's absolutely needed and can even fill in some of the information for the user based on their previous interactions with the site.

Here are some examples:

Absent lazy registration, I'd say the bare minimum is email address, username, and password. However, don't request these until they are absolutely necessary. For everything else, provide incentives for giving further information, much like the badge you get here for filling out your profile.

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You don't need username and e-mail address - use the e-mail as the id. Yes, it might be more friendly for users, but it's effectively redundant information. –  ChrisF Aug 20 '10 at 21:47
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I'd argue that they are not redundant if the ID is publicly viewable. Not all users would appreciate having their email address available for everyone to see. Also, for security, I'd recommend displaying the username publicly, but having the user login with the email address. –  Virtuosi Media Aug 20 '10 at 22:13
    
Good point about the visibility. –  ChrisF Aug 21 '10 at 11:29
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@VirtuosiMedia Having a "Display Name" gives you the same effect (hiding email) without the annoyance of needing to remember a user name or the ugliness of displaying a user name. –  Brendan Long Oct 1 '12 at 23:01

I agree with Chris about asking for an address only when they buy something.

But I'd go a step further: ask for an email and password only when needed as well. The Times of London saw a 90% drop in readership when they started requiring users to register (it was free). Users will happily provide information if, and only if, there's something in it for them. Remember, your competitors are only a couple of mouse clicks away.

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Indeed - that was the implication in my answer, but thanks for making it clear. I was assuming that the user wanted to register. –  ChrisF Aug 20 '10 at 22:01
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The Times were (and still are) charging for access to content - that is why their readership dropped so much. –  adrianbanks Aug 20 '10 at 23:18
    
I don't think referencing what happened with the Times is relevant here: it's not an isolated incident. They saw that drop because visitors were previously able to access content without registering. As you said: if you create a site with registration up front, for instance to post content, it's going to be acceptable to your visitors because they understand the "register to post" paradigm. But similarly, "being able to read the Times" IS "something in it for them". The problem was taking away that freedom and replacing it with registration - not just the registration in and of itself. –  Rahul Aug 20 '10 at 23:24

Assuming that you've convinced the user to register, asking for "too much" information on registration is a guaranteed way to put people off or get them to enter fake data. The minimum you need and should ask for is e-mail (which you can use as id) and password.

You have to give them reasons for wanting to enter any more data.

So if you are shopping site they will only want to enter their address when they buy something etc.

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Less is more.

All you need to ask for is their e-mail address and a password. Nothing more, nothing less. Not even to confirm them, they are useless and annoying. Only these two fields are enough. If the user will make a mistake or forget the password, he or she can easily reset it via a valid e-mail address that they provided.

Now everything else could be asked later, when actually needed and if the user wants it.

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Why should you even require their email? They can enter it later if they want. –  hasenj Aug 21 '10 at 2:35
    
@hasen in case to reset the password.. there are no confirmations.. –  Lipis Sep 3 '10 at 9:10

Just to agree with what everybody else has said.

To summarise my personal experiences.

  • Every time I've removed registration as compulsory step - sales increased

  • Every time I removed a field from a registration/checkout process - sales increased

Every. Single. Time.

This has somewhat coloured my view on registration and unnecessary fields :-)

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Expedia saw a $12 million annual revenue increase by deleting ONE input field. zdnet.com/… –  Patrick McElhaney Nov 2 '10 at 14:45

There are two user routes you are describing. The first one is when the user simply signs up and the other is when the user wants to buy a product.

If the user is going through the 'buy product' route then it's perfectly fine to ask for their shipping address and etc. because that's what the user expects when they buy something. However, if the user is going through the route of signing up without the intention of buying something, then you should only ask for the bare essentials and nothing more.

If you need more info from the user you can always ask for it after the sign up. This helps maintain a healthy conversion rate, instead of scaring users off with too many fields and questions.

Here's an article, "8 Reasons Users Don’t Fill Out Sign Up Forms" that goes into detail why users don't fill out sign up forms. One of the reasons why they don't is when you ask for too much information compared to the value gained. If they don't feel like they're not going to get a lot back when they sign up, they're likely not going to give you their information.

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Interesting article, but it's still just subjective - nothing cited in that article is based on any research, just the authors opinion. It's mostly all assumed common sense. However I do agree with the majority of it (Although Number 3 - users don't sign up because 'there is no option to delete account' is a strange one. Are they saying all signup forms should include information about deleting your account while you're completing the signup itself? Isn't that sending the wrong message about your site that you need to tell people they can delete it at any time? –  JonW Oct 4 '12 at 7:46

I think you should distinguish between the registration and buying the product. I suggest to keep only the necessary fields that will enable you to communicate with your users following a successful registration (for example in order to upgrade their account).

It's known that as the number of form fields increases, conversion rates decrease-see the graph below.

I recommend to read these great articles convering the issue: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6746/Which-Types-of-Form-Fields-Lower-Landing-Page-Conversions.aspx

http://www.appsee.com/blog/app-monetization/minimizing-mobile-checkout-abandonment

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