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In our sign up process, we ask the user to create a login (username and password) and then ask them to fill out the rest of their account which is a much longer process. There can be a one to many relationship between a login and these accounts (similar to your online banking where you have one login and through that one login you can access your savings account, checking account, money market account, etc). Before any of these accounts can be reviewed by our internal team and approved, we need to verify the user's email address.

The way I see it we have two options and I'm struggling to fund much evidence of which one is the better path:

1) we require the user to confirm their email before they can start the rest of the account creation process. i.e. I sign up with my name, email, and password and I then can't continue until my email is verified.

This seems like a cleaner option and we can assume in the approval process that the email is always verified. It would also let the user catch email errors earlier as they would have to validate the email address earlier. It would also alleviate issues with forgotten passwords. This way, a user can't go halfway through the rest of the process which is much longer, come back to it later, try to recover their password, and realize that the email is wrong and they have to start all over again.

However, we're concerned about the drop off. We don't want to create a flow where users abandon the process before even getting to the rest of the account set up because we make them confirm their email address.

2) we require the user to confirm their email address when they finish the whole account creation process. i.e. I sign up with my name, email, password, then I go through the long wizard to finish the set up and only at the end am I asked to verify my email.

It seems the main advantage here is reducing friction in the beginning of the process. We won't have users drop off because it takes to long to get the confirmation email or because they don't want to confirm it because they won't have to until the whole thing is done. In theory if they've gone through the effort of going through the entire set up process they're more invested and more likely to confirm their email.

The downside seems to be that users might enter a wrong email and then if they forget their password, they won't be able to recover it via email and resume from where they left off. They'd have to go through the whole process all over again.

Doing the second option has a few more technical implications than the first but it's definitely not a big issue. So the question is, from the UX perspective, which option would have more people convert through the whole process?

I have a feeling this has been contemplated by a lot of people already...I'm hoping someone with more resources than I have done some A/B testing on the issue.

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Neither.

Put the control in the user's hands.

On the initial page ask for username, password and email, like in option 1, and send the confirmation email. But you do not force them to follow the link in the email immediately.

Allow them to continue working like in option 2, but display a very prominent message on every page making it very clear that their account is not verified, along with a button to resend the email at any time.

At any point during the process they can click the link in their email to verify it.

  • Darren, this is very clever. Would you send an email reminder with the link again automatically when they hit certain stages or would you wait for them to click the resend button? – Kevin Aug 25 '17 at 23:18
  • I don't think users would expect or appreciate multiple emails, that would serve no real purpose and would only result in confusion. I think a clear message on every page with a button they can click to resend would be completely sufficient as it keeps the user in control – Darren H Aug 26 '17 at 2:33
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Does the user have to verify their email address, or verify their identity?

One method I've used to reduce friction is 2 factor authentication through SMS instead of an email confirmation - obviously the email address still needs to be correct, but for the most part this can be validated on the input field. Could you use mobile phone number instead of email address in the beginning and prompt them to add/verify their email address later?

SMS is quick and doesn't break the users flow as much as a finding an email which gets stuck in a spam filter half the time and has varying delivery times.

If must force the user to verify their email and also expect them to keep the user flow you're designing then as mentioned above give the user options - communicate the pros and cons in a clear, concise and conversational way and let them choose.

  • Unfortunately, we do need to require the email to be validated before we can let them use our service. I would love to use phone number instead as I personally find that I prefer services set up that way and your points make a strong argument but that's not an option in this instance. – Kevin Aug 25 '17 at 23:16
  • If this is driven by your stakeholders I'd encourage you to try and push the boundaries a bit, It may seem like an impossible task but if you can show a strong argument and break down their reasons for not wanting to change the way things are you might have some luck. In my case the 2 factor was not an easy sell, it took quite a bit of convincing but we got there in the end and the end result was a much better UX than we would've had with email. – Nathan Wright Aug 27 '17 at 0:49
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To me option 1 is not the best idea to do this.

To stop the on-boarding and verify that email address you are asking a lot from your users. Now you are depending on them to actively dig out that email and complete the verification process. Then they end up with two tabs of your company open in their browser. Where does the user then has to continue the sign up? The original page, the openend link from the email?

Also can you guarantee that the email is send within seconds from the moment that step in the sign-up is reached? Your users are not sitting around waiting 10 minutes for that email to arrive. They get distracted and move on to other things. Also does it go quickly enough through corporate email services, does it end up in spam and the users can't find it? In short give your self some time to get that email out.

I would just let your user continue filling out all information so you give your systems the time to send that email out, while keeping your user in the on-boarding process. Just state at the end of the process that in order to start using the service/product the email address has to be verified.

Just communicate this very clear and early in the process that using your service/product is only possible with a verified email.

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