Ok, so I'm making an ecommerce website with Drupal to sell my software. One of my application uses the standard licence key type method, where a licence key is generated and sent out to the user via email so they can activate the software. I want to make it quick and easy for the user to reset their licence key so that it no longer works on the current machine it's installed on and can be used on another. I have the technical side of things sorted out, but I'm not sure if I should create an account for the user upon checkout so that everything is one place.

My application doesn't use a licence key for technical reasons, so I am relying on genuine and honest customers. To help deter casual piracy, a download code is automatically generated which can be entered onto a webpage to initiate the download.

I am just wondering, which would be more convenient to the user: a system where an account has to be created during checkout and any licence keys or downloads are associated with it, or a system where licence keys and download codes are used as verification, including to get discounts etc. From a technical point of view, I think using accounts is the best option, but I'd rather please my customers than myself!

  • Can you ask clients directly? This is what user testing is all about. Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 21:56
  • @LorenRogers I would love too, but unfortunately at the minute I don't have any clients as of yet. I'm trying to make my website and software as attractive as I can so that I don't start off with a negative impression. This is my research if you like
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 16:42
  • I see -- well, I guess just ask friends / family if they're somewhat close to your target audience. Any user feedback is better than none! Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 18:58
  • @LorenRogers I did start doing this after I asked this question and the general feeling I'm getting is that if the software looks good and the website seems trustworthy people don't mind creating/having the account. So for that reason, and because they will more than likely be used in the future, I am going to accept Aadaam's answer and go with accounts. Although, I would still be interested in seeing anybody elses answer if it varies from what has already been said!...
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


Nice attitude about pleasing users rather than yourself :)

However, on the other side, think of when such reset will be needed.

It's likely it'll be needed in a few months but more likely a few years.

People are likely to have the same e-mail addresses still (or if they used a company e-mail address, and they leave the company, the license usually belongs to the company anyway), but they don't necessarily find the e-mail.

So this is the usual "e-mail address, forgot password, recover password, recover license" scenario.

Also, what would be an alternative? You send a download code which can be used in exchange to be used as a license code and then you can exchange it again for another license code but the old one doesn't work? Would you remember this after 2 years?

That's too complicated for those 99.95% of people who don't have a masters degree in Computer Science I guess.

Accounts are easy. License key belongs to account. Bamm.

Also, about download keys: don't make users to type keys. Create usable-only-once links instead, and make sure they can generate a new link when logged in - possibly for ever, but at least for half an hour.

This is how it goes:

User finishes checkout
  -> gets redirected to available downloads page
User clicks on the freshly bought product's link
  -> using the authentication cookie, a "permission" gets made, which should be part of 
     the URL for the donwloader component
  -> user gets immediately redirected to that URL
  -> after the last byte is sent of the product, the downloader component automatically 
     revokes the permission
If there was an error while downloading: 
  -> an authenticated user can request another download permission

This is how downloaders usually work...

  • Thank you very much for your answer. I'm hoping more people will appreciate my attitude too and realise that I develop not for the money, but to please other people. So your saying accounts all the way? My only worry was that people have so many accounts these days and it may deter them from purchasing software from me. What are your thoughts on this? Also, should I create an account for the user during checkout or tell them to create one if they want to reset their licence key(s) or download any products that not use licence keys?
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 18:23
  • You can link to FB accounts, on the other hand, I'm not sure if FB will exists, let's say, 5 years later. I'd create an account in the meanwhile, like amazon or o'reilly does. O'reilly does a pretty good job at selling virtual products without pissing off its customer base at all, at least, I like their e-book shopping experience.
    – Aadaam
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 18:38
  • I don't really want to link any accounts, because like you say, I might have problems in the future, and some people don't have SN accounts. The only thing is, I only have two applications at the minute, and all these sites that require you create accounts offer loads of products. I'm just worried that people will question why they need to create an account for two pieces of software. I do plan on putting out more software, but I can't guarantee how soon
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 19:22
  • OK, but let's say, Bill buys a license from you (Bill is an imaginary user). 2 years later Bill sells his old computer and gets a new one. He wants to continue to use your software, doesn't have any e-mails saved, he goes to your homepage, calls your cellphone number, and asks you if you could sent it to him. How do you identify Bill?
    – Aadaam
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 19:37
  • I see your point entirely, and from a technical and consumer point of view I guess accounts would be the easiest and most secure way of doing things. I was just scared that having to have an account would put some people off purchasing my software, but you seem to strongly think otherwise. I just wish someone else would comment on this and add their opinion. That'd be really helpful for me
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 19:57

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