Many sign up forms will ask you for an email address so that they can contact you.

Even the most minimal sign-up (other than no sign up) will need an email address to send you a validation email.

Frequently we see copy that says

  • we will never send you spam
    (well that depends on what you consider spam... unsolicited emails about discouts)

  • we will never sell or rent your email address
    (incomplete, eg doesn't preclude actually giving it away)

  • we will only ever use your email address to communicate with you about your orders
    (really - that's a bit restrictive actually)

Occasionally we get a light hearted or casual message like this one from Wufoo, which seems like a good option, but is casual really the best approach?

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Sometimes we see links to Privacy policies or terms and conditions, that few people actually read.

Or maybe the matter should not even be raised in the user's mind?

What's the best way during a sign-up process, to instill confidence in a user that their valuable email address is safe?

  • don't ask for an email, use OAuth instead Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:36
  • 1
    A cute little "we hate spam as much as you" seems okay to me, but on times I've seen it devolve into this
    – Ben Brocka
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:39
  • @NaoiseGolden ok, maybe that's an option in some cases - but for the sake of this question - let's assume we need the email address... :-) Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:39
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    @RogerAttrill Unfortunately I think most users don't care what text you put there. It boils down to the user either caring about what the site has to offer and thus engaging in a real relationship or not. I follow varying approaches depending on the sites worth, ie...don't post phone number so they contact me via email, provide one time email for registration confirmation, etc... You may want my email but more often than not you don't need my email and that's the frustrating part. Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:52
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    also, the best form to instill confidence on the form, rather than coming from the tip line, comes from the whole site. If a warez site is telling me "we hate spam" I will give them a bogus email anyway. Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:54

1 Answer 1


Long, boring documents

You are right, the average user does not read privacy policies or terms & conditions. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't include them in a visible, obvious location on the signup page (and typically in small text at the bottom of every other page as well).

Man or Machine

The best practice I find for instilling confidence in a user is to write your communication to the user as if you are a real person. The "casual message" from Wufoo above is a great example. Why is this so? People are inundated with loads of technical speech on the internet, and at most (typical) sign-up pages. It literally feels to them as if some soul-less computer generated the text and spat it out. Writing in a more casual, friendly manner can give the user confidence that you are a real person, just like them and that your promise to keep their email safe is actually true.

So what I would do is the short and sweet casual message (as in the example above), but also include before the "Sign Up!" button itself a clear link to the privacy policy should the user require more detail. This way you are being inviting to everyone and still provide the details for the more technical users.

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