I don't want to compromise the user experience, but I have been thinking about forcing my users to sign-up to download free files created by myself.

Although, it may sound ridiculous, nevertheless, I have seen many websites take on this approach to increase their mailing list.

  • What would you do with the email addresses?
    – JonW
    Aug 24, 2015 at 13:29
  • And what is your intention? Do you explain the users why they have to sign-up first?
    – Marvin
    Aug 24, 2015 at 13:30
  • Thanks for your response, I need their email so I could potentially provide my users an easier method of tracking changes in my web scripts. I should have mentioned this before, I sell and offer free web scripts to my users. Aug 25, 2015 at 15:18
  • cragglist.com my website, I was initially planning to sell my website, but I don't think it's worth much. just to add to the conversation, I've recently been losing a lot of traffic. Aug 25, 2015 at 15:23

3 Answers 3


If you're offering a free resource, then most savvy user's generally think to themselves "what's the catch?". So it's not a great surprise that with these free resources come with a caveat of signing up to a mailing list or divulging some information, usually your email address.

What you need to do is create a balance between asking for not too much in exchange for this freebie. Ask for too much or in the wrong way and people will be put off and not bother, ask for too little or for useless information and you haven't made the most of offering this freebie.

It all comes down to the reason you are offering this freebie. If you want to simply offer something, increase your brand image, look generous, then you don't need to ask for anything in return. If it is purely to increase sign ups to your mailing list then think how much info you need from them.

Maybe all you need to do then is to ask for their email address. If this is the bare minimum of info you need to sign them up. Also, rather than a download, send the freebie to their email address so they are forced to enter their real address in and not a fake one.

Keep the process simple, open and honest. User's will respect you asking for an email address to send the freebie to and understand that in return they will be subscribed to your mailing list (if you make it clear to them). Chances are if they are interested in a resource you have offered then they will find it useful to be on your mailing list for future content too.

For example (from uxpin)

https://www.uxpin.com/primer-ux-design-process-documentation.html enter image description here

  • 1
    'If you're offering a free resource, then most savvy user's generally think to themselves "what's the catch?".' - I disagree. Legitimately and unconditionally free resources can be found in many places online, hence I doubt users would think about a possible catch when finding a seemingly free resource. However, if the "free" download requires them to enter an e-mail address, that is when their perception of the offer may switch from "serious" to "fishy", and that's when they start thinking something like "what's the big catch, aside from sneakily trying to find out my e-mail address?". Aug 25, 2015 at 15:31

In order to make users share their e-mail addresses you should show all benefits which users may get after doing so.

  • they can provide you feedback about free feature which they just downloaded and you can improve it based on their needs;
  • they can tell you in which other features/tools they also may be interested ( you can use this in order to build more free content to share with users);
  • you can keep them updated about similar free features which you'll be sharing with audience , so they will be the ones who will get them first;
  • also in case if they provide you e-mail address you'll be sending unique URL URL which allows to download file with higher speed;
  • also you can say that this is so-called "protection from bots"

Suggested message which you can use: Sign up to get even more free content which you love.

And you can try all those options one -by-one. Just keep an eye on response which you get from audience. If you see that introduced change doesn't bring positive results then try the next option.

Remember , that users are very suspicions when you're starting to request personal information with no obvious reason.

Good luck in your project!

  • That would be "benefits," in quotes. Of course, what I (usually) want is to download the thing without getting signed up for additional stuff. (Realistically, though, this is a very good answer.) Aug 25, 2015 at 20:58

Try reciprocity

If you demand an email as barter for a download, people will be more likely to give you their "email address for junk email" or simply to abandon the download.

A better approach is to give away the download and THEN ask for the email, with a good reason. You'll get better quality email addresses by doing something nice, first, and then giving people the opportunity to do something nice in return. This is called reciprocity, and it works because we humans are social.

The Psychologist's View of UX Design

See section 5 in this reading about psychology and UX design, as explained by Dr Weinschenk. Formerly with UX consultancy HFI, Weinschenk has made this her area of specialisation.

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