My app is a game for kids in classrooms, and we offer a demo mode for teachers, so they can try before they buy. We've found that lots of kids are signing up for a demo so they can play the game for free, and then they abandon it when the demo is up. We have people who go through these demo registrations, and it's a big waste of their time, and messes up our metrics on the value of having the demo mode in the first place.

We would like to prevent this by asking the teacher to enter an email address or phone number, so that, before they can get the demo, we message them a short code, and then require them to enter that code. The idea is that a legitimate adult user would have no problem going through this step, but a kid who's just playing around will think twice before identifying himself.

So, what is a polite way to ask for this information and explain why we want it, without sounding off-putting, like "we don't trust you"?

(Alternatively, is there a better way to solve this problem?)

  • 1
    Not an answer to your actual question, but I'd like to point out that your users have a goal (get the demo) and you're putting hurdles in the path of that goal (enter an address, wait for the email, open the email, go back to the app and enter the code). Each hurdle is going to turn away some number of users. So it will take a certain level of motivation to actually get the demo. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it. I'd like to hear back from you about what happens when you do. Jun 20, 2018 at 16:49
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    @KenMohnkern: Very valid points. We tried it with no hurdles for that exact reason, and found a lot of abuse. So this is a second attempt, to cut back on that abuse, hopefully without also deterring legitimate leads. Jun 20, 2018 at 18:25

5 Answers 5


Lessening the pain

You can ask verifying information, and don't need to offer justification for why — you don't need to say, for example "we ask this to make sure you're a serious prospect." You can make it less painful by:

  • Asking for info with an upbeat tone, e.g. instead of "Please enter your phone number for verification purposes", you can have something like "Let's get started with your free demo! First, what's your phone number? We'll use this to send you an access code."

  • Make the purpose plain and stick to it, e.g. if you're asking for email or phone number for verification only, make it clear that you'll only use it for verification and don't intend to spam the user later. It doesn't always need to be spelled in legalese, e.g. "We won't spam, promise!". Informing users of the purpose of info collection is good UX practice in general but note that some regulations such as GDPR or plain-old consumer protection regulations might make this a stronger requirement.

  • You can let the user into the demo for a few seconds and then ask them for the phone number to continue. Maybe this way you can hook them faster.

Increasing the value

You can also ask yourself — since you're going to ask the user to jump through some hoops and provide information required for verification — what else would you be able to offer to that user that would be valuable to them? For example, if your product sends email reports, could you use the email to send an example report and make that part of the value proposition for your demo? That might increase the value to the user of doing the legwork to verify themselves.

But really, do you need this?

Think carefully about the cost of these measures compared with the cost of your current situation. From what you are saying ("waste of [users'] time, and messes up our metrics on the value of having the demo"), this sounds like at least the demo isn't causing you to bleed cash and maybe you have more of a metrics problem. I wouldn't worry about users' time, it seems like they're having fun playing your game, you should be proud! I'd be tempted to say: so what if your conversion rate from demo to sales looks bad — will the change increase your sales? I doubt that "fixing" the conversion rate by adding a verification roadblock in front of your demo, to make sure that your denominator only includes "serious" people, will increase your sales.

  • "You can ask verifying information, and don't need to offer justification for why." Now that the GDPR has come into force, is that still true?
    – Schmuddi
    Jun 22, 2018 at 12:44
  • @Schmuddi ah what I meant was, it's not necessary to tell the user that it's because there are people abusing the demo. Otherwise there should be an indication of purpose not just because of regulation but because it's good UX. Will clarify
    – qoba
    Jun 22, 2018 at 13:53
  • @Schmuddi added
    – qoba
    Jun 22, 2018 at 13:58

It is very rational to require verifying an identity via an email address or a phone number for a demo run. Since it is a quite common practice, no reasoning is expected, neither needed (besides required privacy policy and terms of service checkboxes).

Otherwise, it may lead to a situation when you providing your service (or its most exciting part) for free and only a few would ever sign-up and pay for it.


I get your "abuse" and "trust" perspective but your app should avoid sounding or acting negative or accusatory in any way. Always figure out the positive way.

If you want the most users to try your app, don't make them sign up. Email addresses and phone numbers are like money and their value varies wildly.

Figure out some questions that are easy for teachers to answer and gamify your teacher authentication. Ask them the question with a timer. Give them a few shots at it. Users get rewarded instantly for knowing the question and access to the app. That's a user coming off a positive experience versus a user who just gave you something.

Offer an email or phone signup to the users who couldn't do the questions.

  • I've never encountered an authentication system that stressed my mental processes/focus/attention first, then offered phone or email as a backup. I'd feel somewhat offended if I got an "Oh no! We weren't able to verify you're smart enough to use our app! Please enter your phone number/email address." Dress it up as much as you want, but that seems like an unreliable test and difficult to execute without risk of leaving a bad taste. Especially since that "test" isn't part of the actual app at all. Creative idea, but I don't know if this use case is a fitting candidate for that suggestion. Jun 20, 2018 at 15:02
  • These are interesting ideas, and I agree that it has to be phrased in a positive way (thus my original post). I think I agree with @maxathousand that someone could take it the wrong way. Plus, answering a question is something you know, but the email or text message is less spoofable because it's something you have. Jun 20, 2018 at 15:32
  • @maxathousand That's quite a reaction to whatever design you imagined. What questions are you imagining that would induce stress? When your angry user fails to pass your questions you give your user an angry message? If you can't think of how this could be done, just ask for examples or clarification. I'd love to give some examples if you'd like.
    – moot
    Jun 20, 2018 at 16:34
  • @moot I'm sorry if that comment came off brash. Perhaps that was an exaggerated reaction. My only point is that it seems like it could come across as an IQ test and could cause offense to a legitimate user who failed to complete it successfully. Feel free to edit some examples into your answer if you have some. Jun 20, 2018 at 17:39
  • @maxathousand Brash? Maybe read it again. You're upset that my solution stressed you, offended you, and is unreliable and unexecutable without leaving a "bad taste." Are you arguing that asking for email isn't a huge deal?
    – moot
    Jun 21, 2018 at 1:01

How do the teachers get the app? Do they just find it on the app store or is there some kind of promo invite? If there's an invite, you can consider adding a key which needs to be entered.

I think asking for an email address is reasonable. If the teachers want to upgrade to the full version, they will need to provide some particulars. You could word it in a friendly way like they do with captchas: "We need to know you are a real human!"

It's interesting how the kids are also signing up for the demo, presumably after their teacher showed it to them in class? This means they like the game!


I think your problem aren't the kids or the (technical) costs they produce. It's more the noise in your data and sales effort. I assume your business model is to sell to the teachers. So those kids (if not instructed by the teacher - do not harm your profits)

Situation: Too many kids signups.

Thought #1: Simply use mail signup. But as you described this is a additional potential point of conversion loss.

Thought #2: As you described your problem purely from the side of sales effort due to kids accounts you don't need their mail for further sales process. Any other kind of verification will do.

Thought #3: Kids are smart. They'll find a mail adress or google a given questions.

Conclusion: Your primary goal is to get rid of the kids accounts, but keep the conversion convenient for the teachers.

Try to separate those groups. Do two signups. One for teachers. One for kids. And make the first one (at least in the description) less attractive for the kids. And for sales and metrics use just the data from the first one.

Based on the given information this could solve your task. It's based on your problem - not on your given question :-)

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