It's best not to reload during a signup process, but sometimes it can't be avoided. There are many signup processes for even very mature sites (e.g. gmail, ebay, etc) which involve page reloads.
What issues need to be addressed?
Page loads create cognitive disruption to users. While you're filling in a form, the page becomes your universe so a reload suddenly causes the universe to disappear momentarily. The disruption may trigger:
- Disorientation as the user loses bearings temporarily and needs to re-orient himself on the new page.
- Regret or re-evaluation as the user is momentarily distraction. So for sensitive signup processes you the disruption may provide an excuse for abandonment.
- Frustration as the user may not have been expecting the page load and may feel frustrated that she has been moved forward involuntarily in the signup process.
What can be done?
Here are some practices which help mitigate the issues:
Cue users that something is going to happen. A
Next button, progress bar animation (which you're using) or a more descriptive
Next: edit your profile > button helps users understand that they are about to move into a different step so the page load will be less unexpected.
Help users regain orientation quickly on the new page.
Provide a clear entry point into the next page, for example a clear page title explaining what users should do, e.g.
Edit your profile.
- Provide consistency of style and layout (e.g. if you have a header and footer on the old page, make sure it also appears on the new page)
- Provide additional orientation cues such as a wizard-style progress bar:
Provide positive reinforcement to counteract regret/re-evaluation. For example, the page header might start with
You're almost done.... There are many approaches here. Adopting a conversational style with a user (if it's acceptable for your app) can help users feel more engaged with the process.
Make sure the back button works! This is quite important for addressing/avoiding user frustration. A user may not have expected the page reload, or may need to go back and edit the previous form. It's very frustrating for users to move forward in the process and not be able to go back...a typical reaction is just to abandon the process altogether.