The perceived majority of websites have a quite similar approach to double opt-in signups: all information required to sign up is required before sending a confirmation e-mail. The confirmation e-mail then usually just contains a link to activate the account, leading to a more or less blank page saying something like "Activation Successful".

Depending on the website, the most common privileges for pending users (users that submitted the form but haven't clicked the confirmation link) seem to be:

  • No access to additional content/functions
  • Restricted access to additional content/function (e.g. read-only access)
  • Full access

For me, the second option is the best one, as the user does not have to wait on the e-mail to access additional content, but still has the motivation to activate the account as some functions remain restricted.

Given that preference, I was wondering if there's a benefit in reversing the double opt-in process by only requiring the bare necessities, which in this case is only the e-mail address. No user name, no password, just the e-mail address to get into the pending user state.

Password, user name etc. will be set after the click on the confirmation link. Also the option to cancel the registration process (i.e. deleting the e-mail address from the system) could be included. From a user's point of view the advantages seem to be

  • Little effort to register in first step
  • Easy cancelling of pending account in second step

My question is: Assuming that the website is ad-sponsored and depends on registered users, would reversing the double opt-in have any gains as far UX and/or conversion rate are concerned? Are there any examples out there that use the described approach?

1 Answer 1


Sites like CouchSurfing use forms of late "validation" that benefit the standings of users. That might not work in your case as you can't allow any valuable assets until your account is password-protected.

As a user I don't think it'd be a big deal for me to fill in a username and password if I already need to fill other information. Why would I give you my email address if I don't have an account with you? I don't want to receive spam after all :)

It might be worth considering the following depending on the type of sites you do: rather than make people create an account upfront, let them order that item or create that blog they want, and only at the very last step -- once they've already typed their email and name for another purpose -- ask them to add a password and "remember" their account. If proposed upfront I'll always go for the "guest" purchasing or posting because it's faster, but if I have already typed everything I might as well add a password and save myself time later.

Finally, ask yourself if users want to put up with the cognitive load of the "pending" or "guest" state. I'd imagine this depends wildly on the type of sites and on how clear the separation between "pending" and "registered" features is.

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