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The scenario I have may be a type of edge case because of the nature of the site I'm working on. This site (note: the site is not e-commerce, it is not about generating revenue; essentially, non-profit, quasi-government, and needs to make sure users are who they say they are) requires potential users to complete a number of fields in a registration form. After submitting the form, an admin reviews the submission, and performs a background check on the submitter using external resources. The background check can take a few days. If the submitter passes the background check and is accepted, then the admin activates the submitter's account.

My question is this: at what point in this process is the ideal time to ask the user to create a password? Should the user create a password at the time of their filling out the registration form, or should the user create a password after they have been accepted as a user?

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Make the user do as little work as possible, and align their expectations. It sounds like they are applying for access, not creating an account.

It sounds like an application form, not creating an account. This might lead them to think they have accomplished something on the path to acceptance, only to face possible rejection.

Do you have data that shows your rejection rate? If it's quite low, you can assume the overwhelming majority of users will be accepted.

A case against password creation (more work)

Creating a password requires a tax on the user. They have to:

  • Think of a password
  • Check to see if it conforms to your password requirements
  • Potentially worry if it's powerful enough / not obvious ('password123'?)
  • Write down or store the password somewhere once they have made it, or try to remember it (uggh!)

Making mistakes during this process can potentially waste the users time, and prevent your business from receiving the registrations they need.

It's a bottleneck, especially if your password UX is problematic.

After taking the time to do all this, they still may face a rejection.

A case for creating an account (persistent UI for status updates)

If you have specific status updates that users will want / need to view, or you want a place to give them a chance to edit their answers / information, then a private / password protected area can allow them to answer:

  • Has my application been received?
  • Are there any mistakes I can correct?
  • Is there anything holding up my acceptance?
  • When can I expect an answer on my status?

Some of these can be answered by email or other validation types (one time tokens from an email link).

  • I completely agree with your point about "Write down or store the password somewhere once they have made it, or try to remember it (uggh!)". My manager seems to be insistent that this is a non-issue, though. – mg1075 Mar 11 at 16:26

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