I know account activation can be avoided by using other verification methods such as captchas etc. However I'm wondering if a solution already exists for the following scenario (which happens to be one of the longest surviving UX annoyances there is).


  1. A user registers for an account and is informed that an email has been sent to their account which requires an activation click.

  2. The leaves this tab open and immediately checks their mail where they find the activation link.

  3. The user clicks the link and a new tab is opened containing a success message at which point the user continues their experience within that tab or goes back to the original tab.

This path ends up with two open tabs for the same site which can be confusing and is not optimal.

Any thoughts/alternatives would be appreciated.

  • HTML5 Cross-Window Messaging, anyone? ejohn.org/blog/cross-window-messaging (also, caniuse.com/#feat=x-doc-messaging)
    – vzwick
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 14:11
  • Interesting. How would this work?
    – Sinclair
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 10:43
  • It makes perfect sense, though. When you click a URL in an email, it always opens a new tab. This is a consistent and expected behavior.
    – DA01
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 14:56
  • Yes it is - but it's not great to have two open tabs from the same site. Perhaps the first tab could be signaled to close.
    – Sinclair
    Commented Sep 7, 2012 at 15:53
  • How about using OpenID as an alternative? - Ask identity provider to ask user for permission to use their credentials and then return to source site (like the StackExchange network does). Commented May 4, 2014 at 21:52

2 Answers 2


Rather than clicking a link, some of these validation emails (I can't think of an example at the moment) give the option to copy and paste a short validation code (4 or 5 characters) instead. The process would therefore be something like:

  1. User registers and is informed that an email has been sent to their account which includes a validation code. The page includes a form asking the user to enter the code when they receive it.
  2. User leaves this tab open and immediately checks their mail where they find the activation email.
  3. User does a copy and paste of the code into the field in the original browser tab and continues their experience.

The email would need to include a link, just in case the user had closed the original browser tab.


I'm not that good in JavaScript, so I'm not sure if this would work, but AFAIK you can through JavaScript give a name to a window/tab (such as the tab your register message appears), and you can use JavaScript to open a new document on that named tab. Also you can use JavaScript to close the current tab. Therefore I could imagine the following procedure (assuming it is technically possible):

  • The registration tab gets an unique name.
  • The confirmation landing page contains JavaScript to open the next page in a tab of that name (if that doesn't exist because you've closed it, a new one will be opens IIUC), and then close itself. For people who block JavaScript, it contains a text explaining that registration was successful, and a link to continue (no advantage over the normal scheme without JavaScript, but also no disadvantage).
  • The user can now continue on the old tab (or the newly opened if he had closed the old one).

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