First off - I want users to register on my site. It's a site for image sharing, sort of like imgur.com. But what makes a user on a website register? I have people coming back to my site but they never register. They sometimes comment on content that I have, but for some reason they see no interest in registering.

How do I convey the advantages of registering? What kind of advantages should I offer?

The existing incentives I offer are:

  • An individual username
  • More powers, including:
    • The rights to edit one's own content
    • The ability to start gaining points (which can be spent in a shop for 'extras') for actions you do
    • Increased voting powers

I suspect the existing barriers to registration on my site are:

  • that registration is annoying
  • that users are uncomfortable giving out personal information
  • that users fear registration will be time consuming (though it actually takes 14 seconds)
  • that users fear an awkward mail validation process (not present)
  • that users dislike CAPTCHAs (present)
  • that users already have accounts, but don't re-sign in for whatever reason.

Possible ways to get people to sign up

  • Show them how little time they'll have to put in
  • Explaining the advantages (maybe a separate page)
  • Being clear about what will happen with the info, TOS/privacy policy
  • Providing a "forgot password" page for those who simply can't re-login
  • Improving the design of the registration form
  • Purging unnecessary questions from the registration form
  • Letting guests use the site before registering

I have come to the realization that my incentives might not be up to par with what I believed them to be.

The site, and the notifications on errors are not 100% User friendly, but this is a new version I'm testing (people don't register anyway ;))

  • 8
    Why do you want them to register?
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 10:32
  • 1
    Might also be helpful to look common reasons why people do NOT WANT to register and learn from them. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 10:43
  • 6
    This is a good question, but in your case I don't think you need to encourage registration. If the visitors can more-or-less do the same as registered visitors, and you have no business need for them to be registered (i.e. some sites require registration so they can harvest email addresses for advertising purposes) then you should aim to increase customer loyalty by providing the best user-experience in the site itself. If the site is a pleasure to use, and better than any alternatives then you'll get repeat users that way.
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 11:37
  • 4
    Have you tried openID authentication? At least making registration easier pretty much always helps, though it also sounds like you need to find some real value to add to encourage registration as well
    – Zelda
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 14:17
  • 2
    Having to pick a username often stops me from registering, especially if they don't allow @ signs in the username. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 17:26

6 Answers 6


First, as others said, people want to see that it'll be worth it before they register. That means (1) let them use the site in some reduced form (like it sounds like you're doing, and like StackExchange does for instance), and (2) communicate benefits that matter to them. For an image-storing site, it seems like being able to manage your images/albums would be a pretty big benefit, versus posting once into the wild and never being able to edit or remove it later.

Second and just as important: you need to clearly mitigate the user's concerns about harm. Harm takes several forms:

  • Giving up an email address leads to spam: yeah yeah, link your privacy policy and TOS, but when you ask for an email address also say "will be used only for (whatever)". Otherwise some users won't register and others will give bogus email addresses (and your email to them will fail).

  • If it's really a 14-second process, say that! ThinkGeek does this for customer surveys (I don't remember if they do it for registration; been a while); they'll say "takes 30 seconds" so people know they aren't walking into a time-suck. I've also seen (forget where) "just two questions" and that sort of thing. Communicate that this is fast.

  • Privacy: don't ask for anything you don't need. If you do ask, make it clear that it's optional. Otherwise, as with the email address, your results are suspect.

  • "Oh sigh, another ID/password to manage!": I don't have any data to back this up, but I have the impression from watching less-technical family members that having a "forgot ID or password?" link right there next to the login form makes a difference up front. I think it alleviates the fear that they'll forget it and be locked out -- "oh look, I can get it back somehow". This also reduces the number of "password" (or "password1" :-) ) logins you'll have. :-)

Finally, others have brought up OpenID. Notice what StackExchange does: you can log in to any site just by using an existing ID somewhere, but if you take the extra step of registering that account with SE you get things like a real name (not user7890) and email notifications. But you don't have to do that to start using the site; you can do it later. I don't know what SE's conversion rate is, but I don't see a lot of user4321s running around compared to names.

  • I like this ^^, could you give an example of communicating benefits to users? I always like a clear "advantages of signing up" page, but have ever seen one in the wild? I always like those, because they give me an 'apple'-like benefits page. Which mostly has to look pretty. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 15:50
  • Here's one example: thinkgeek.com/brain/account/login.cgi You can buy stuff from them without creating an account, but there are some advantages to creating one. (Tangentially, I wonder if "register" and "create an account" convey different meanings? ThinkGeek uses the latter.) Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 16:18
  • Note, though, that ThinkGeek doesn't follow my advice about email addresses. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 16:19
  • I tend to ignore "just two questions", it's been kinda misleading in the one or two places I've seen it - they were very long questions... (And one had sub-questions)
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 17:05
  • @Izkata oh yuck; that's cheating! Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 17:59

Users never really want to register, that's the first thing; registration places a barrier between them and a 'goal'. If you are going to make users register, make it as painless as possible; e.g. login with Facebook or other common service providers, and make sure you explain clearly why users should register, e.g. for benefits, rewards, etc.; I really can't think of many reasons why users may want to signup for a service they have not yet used, unless the site is pretty convincing in conveying the reasons why, like -ahem- http://achica.com/(*)

You may want to think about passive registration: let users use your services, for free, and when they want to save, upgrade, etc. then ask for more details at this point. http://mashupforge.com/ is a pretty good example.


  • Don't force users to register
  • If you insist on forced registration, outline benefits clearly
  • Use passive registration as a means of capturing user data and encouraging repeat visits
  • Use OpenID to smooth registration

(*)This is a bit of an in-joke: achica forces registration before users can use the shop, but it this is part of a 'brand building' exercise. It's an example of a -fairly risky- dangling carrot registration process, if that makes sense.

  • 1
    Achica doesnt really outline the advantages .. greatly. Its a small amount of text at the bottom. I dont force users to register, they can do the following things: upload images, vote, comment. A registered user can: upload images, upload videos, vote, comment, edit comments, edit videos/image thumbnails, gain points. But how to outline this to the users (and have them be interested?) Achica is more about signing up for ads. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 11:31
  • achica comes with massive caveats and has been the subject many times in chat. I could go on, but here's not the right place ;)
    – colmcq
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 11:40
  • 3
    Achica uses some real good examples of dark patterns: wiki.darkpatterns.org
    – Sheff
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 14:42
  • I mainly agree but OpenId can be a negative - I don;t want to use the same login on all sites so when my password gets broken it only affects one site -although depends on the benefits - if large I would use it
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 21:31

users do not want to register for fear of being spammed or their email sold to others. And, the time, even 14 seconds is too long if I am just trying to get an image.

  • 1
    Hi Chris welcome to UX.SE! Could you elaborate on your answer and maybe add some references to your position? This answer is a bit short and unsubstantiated at the moment and people are likely to downvote it. Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 11:47
  • I don't think fear of spam or email sales is the reason. People don't give a damn about worse things than that. The main problem is that people don't want to BOTHER having to register on every single website they want to use. You should ask yourself, does my site REALLY need registered users, or can it just as well be anonymous? The one thing I really hate is websites feeling entitled to ask for my information, even when they don't need it in the first place. A good example of this is various newspapers who feel the need to implement their own comment section instead of using Disqus or other.
    – Tor Valamo
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 18:35
  • I don't want to register because I don't want to spend the time. ONLY after I know there is value in the site and VALUE in registering will I chose to register. (But that's me.)
    – Mayo
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:47

One lovely example I saw in rb.trends via techcrunch recently was Codeacademy. They don't ask you to sign up but entice you in with a simple progression. Given their purpose the progression is through JavaScript coding exercises. When you are ready to leave they let you know that to save your progress you'll need to sign in. It works well.

  • 1
    That's a great example of subtle registration but it doesn't explain why in more general terms.
    – dnbrv
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 15:03
  • That really is appaling - things like that must be shown up front otherwise it really makes a user think a site is out to misdirect or otherwise lie to them. A reliable site will tell you you cannot save before you do anything
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 21:21
  • @Mark I don't agree. There's no assumption on the web that you can save, so delaying the decision seems fine.
    – dumbledad
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 8:29

Given that it sounds like your site is more of a consumer-directed offering, OpenID, at least in the vein of SE, might be even more of a registration barrier. I've noticed that most OpenID sites (like the SE family) cater to fairly technical people, so your audience might not already have a usable sign-in or might not know that they do.

Instead of generic OpenID, I would investigate using Facebook sign-in, which technically is an OpenID provider I believe. Besides making it easy, people are accustomed to this method of registration/authentication, and you do get access to information a user would likely never want to enter into your registration form. This method of registration may be more appropriate to your site's focus, too.

  • I however want to store information, to be able to manipulate that information/ send emails for confirmatin etc. Is that still possible then? Commented May 22, 2012 at 13:07

Some good points raised here.

I strongly suggest you read the story of the $300m button. Jared Spool outlines some problems with online registration. It may not be 100% applicable to your case, but there's plenty to think about.

  • A very nice read, I think it applies to my site a little, as I am not forcing people to register, it is a added bonus for those that wish to have their own little place on the site. Or atleast, that is my wish. :) Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 21:35

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