If you go to Assistly, you'll notice their pages have a navigation bar at the top... except for the signup page. I have seen this practice where all links are removed from the order page. This practice somehow rubs me the wrong way. It's like trying to trap a visitor and not let them get distracted by other links. I am not saying it's wrong and I understand why they are doing it. It's that when I see it I am conscious about it and I know what they're to do and I feel it's a bit sleezy.

What do you think?


After reading some comments, I think my question is a little misunderstood. The question is from the user's perspective and not from the site's developer/owner's side.


6 Answers 6


Looking at this particular example, I don't really have a problem with it. It's a clean, well designed page with pricing information prominently displayed and even has a mini FAQ at the bottom.

As you mentioned, getting rid of the navigation links does eliminate some distraction, and it makes for a cleaner, more focused page. It also limits the temptation to accidentally navigate away from the page before submitting the information.

That said, they might have considered making the "Assistly" logo at the top active, allowing users to click that to return to the home page, but I don't think it's really a major issue that they didn't. Similarly, they could have put a "Cancel" or "No Thanks" button next to "Begin Trial". That would make the page more usable, but I don't think it quite rises to the level of sleazy not to do it. (It's certainly not uncommon to prevent an easy escape.)


I just noticed something. It all depends how you get to the sign-up page. If you get there by clicking a button that basically says, "Sign me up!", I continue to believe the design of the page is acceptable.

However, if I get to the "sign-up" page by clicking "Pricing", now I'm not happy. I didn't navigate to this page to sign up, I navigated because I want to see pricing. I should be able to continue navigating at this point, but I can't without resorting to the Back button. I don't expect to need the Back button when navigating around a site like this, and it takes me out of my flow to have to do so. Some users might even be confounded by having to do this.

So, the crux of the problem is that the site designers have attempted to use the sign-up page for more than just sign-up (e.g., for seeing pricing), but this makes the lack of navigation buttons an actual problem, rather than just a justifiable design trade-off.

  • +1 for explaining that this is either good or bad depending on how you reach the sign-up page. Nov 2, 2010 at 20:15
  • BTW, I'm finding the logo does take me home. Dec 22, 2010 at 14:50
  • Anything that misleads a user should not be done, ever. Just like DanM is explaining that a link takes him to a page he doesn't expect, this will create frustration and potential abandonment. Let's not forget that if this happens continuously, then that's something that will, beyond a doubt, create a high influx of abandonment.
    – UXerUIer
    Dec 4, 2013 at 14:10

This is a common (and smart) practice, but perhaps it might help to look at it from a different perspective.

Every page should have a primary call to action, that is, an action that the user is supposed to take. The primary action is the reason for the page existing at all. There are also secondary calls to action, actions that are also important for the user to take, but not as important as the primary action.

Good and effective design will make use of calls to action in the following ways:

  • Align the website's desired actions with the user's desired actions. Put another way, if your business goals intersect with your user's goals, your business goals are much more likely to be achieved.
  • The secondary calls to action will complement the primary call to action, but represent less of a commitment. Assistly does this on their front page, where the primary call is to sign up, but the secondary call is to take a product tour.
  • The calls to action are clear and obvious. This includes everything from copy to design.
  • The primary call is differentiated from secondary calls to action. Again, look at Assistly's front page to see this done well. It's obvious what the desired course of action is, yet the secondary call is still visible as well.
  • The promise of the call to action is consistent with the results. In other words, match the expectations of the user. If I click on a free sign up button, I don't want to be taken to a page that makes me enter my credit card information.
  • Anything that distracts from the calls of action should be removed. In Assistly's case, the user wasn't tricked into going to the sign-up page. The user is there, they have one goal. The business also has one goal. Everything else should be removed. Notice that they also have secondary calls to action that complement the primary call: Viewing price details for full plans and the customer support email address at the bottom. Even all the text on the page is designed to help the customer complete the form.
  • Test Everything. If there is doubt about whether or not an element should be on a page, test conversion rates with and without it. In the case of whether or not present navigation should be present, I think it might depend on the situation and that one should rely on the objective results of a test.

In short, your example is actually an example of a series of calls to action done right. Assistly clearly shows their offer, they've aligned it with their customer goals, they don't try to trick anyone, and they remove any obstacles or distractions from their sign up form.


However, note that Assistly is a service and is essentially offering one product. For websites selling multiple products, the sales funnel is not as simplified, though the same basic principles apply. In an ecommerce website, you may want to have upsells and related products as secondary calls to action, though they should never subvert the primary call, which is to checkout.

Generally, it's best to make any user funnel as simple, clear, and short as possible. Doing so greatly increases your chances of success.

  • I stopped reading after your first sentence fragment because it is so wrong that I don't even know where to start. "This is a common (and smart) practice". There is absolutely nothing smart about it. Users HATE that sort of thing. I've seen many places where people complain that Amazon does it that way. Not only does it piss people off, but if they want to go and add additional things to their order, there's no good way to do it. Nov 2, 2010 at 19:42
  • 5
    If you stopped reading after the first clause, I guess there really isn't anything that I could say in response being as I laid out my reasoning after that. Thank you for your time and consideration. Nov 2, 2010 at 19:56
  • I disagree with your reasoning, regardless of how the user got to a page or existing type of call of action. A nav bar should always be visible. If I decide to fill a form half way and change my mind to go to another page, I should be able to do so without friction. I just don't like the "let's grab him and make sure he stays focused on the form before he leaves" mentality. I know they are not tricking me. It's the subtle thing they are doing. Here's an (extreme) analogy . Controls in a plane cabin are always accessible. Whether the pilot's browsing a magazine or doing an emergency landing.
    – Abdu
    Nov 2, 2010 at 21:35
  • @Abdu - That's certainly a valid argument. I updated my answer. I could go either way on navigation being there, but the only sure way to find out is to test both ways. A parallel one could draw is with modal windows. Many modal windows gray-out the background until the modal action is completed because it helps the user complete the task at hand. The gray helps minimize distractions and helps the user focus. This also attempts to do that. Is it the right solution every time? No, but that's why you test. Nov 2, 2010 at 21:51

My thoughts:

1) Sign up is not part of the daily flow. It's a one-off page. (one and done, really) 2) The users don't navigate there via the menu bar. So it's not like they're removing the doorway that got you there 3) There's much to be said about keeping distractions to an absolute minimum on a sign up page.


I am familiar with this concept as a user. I think it's okay to prevent a user from clicking out of sign up flow by suppressing all other nav elements; however, you still need to offer a BACK and/or a CANCEL option.


It is bad for usability on your site. And it is especially bad in the ordering process (both for the business and the user). How does the user get back to buy more products? You don't give them a way to get back to the main site and add more things to their cart? It is really annoying to have to hit the back button a bunch of times or to have to manually change the URL in the browser. I know that I have personally chosen to NOT add something else to my Amazon order at least once because I didn't want to go through the hassle when I was on the last step before placing the order.

The "benefits" you get by doing this are not worth the user frustration and potential monetary losses that you could suffer by doing it.

  • 2
    Please note that in the example provided, there aren't additional products to add. Assistly is a service. Amazon is a different use case. Nov 2, 2010 at 19:58
  • @VirtuosiMedia if you read the question, he also mentioned about order processes. Assistly was just a single example. Nov 3, 2010 at 13:59

I feel we need to clarify a few things here.

1 Some services offer many solutions and people have to choose just 1 solution.

  • 1a In order to give people enough information to address the solution they need, the service website should let users go back and forth as many time they need to be triggered at taking action
  • 1b When people decide to click the CTA to subscribe the service, they might want to see what kind of data are asked or see how long the process takes or whatever but subscribe the service for real. That happens when people are getting information about the service, who is offering it and what kind of price and solutions are offered online.
  • 1c When people really decide to take action to subscribe the service for real you have the most critical moment in the service website life. You want to keep away any distraction and you want your may-be-future customer as much focused on the CTA as possible. You might cut the back secondary action off his way as well as the main navigation. You can use the sing up page as the meeting room where customer and salesman shake their hand to start business together. It's a special place and it deserves some special exception.

2 eCommerce websites and Amazon alike: users browse all the products, choose every item they want to buy, when ready, they click on the checkout button. It's a bit more complicate than this, but it gives an idea of the process.
Well, I don't see the problem here. Amazon offers you thousand ways to escape from the checkout process until you arrive to place your order. It asks to login only if you were out when you decided to start the check out process. This is another critical moment because you might need to guide your users at signing up or at logging in: if users are signing up for the first time they need to be very focused on the task (ther are important decision that they need to make); if they are returning customer they need to recall their user name and passwords as quickly as they can: you should help them taking away all the distractions and pointing out what they are doing wrong in case of mistakes.

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