On a long, multi-screen registration flow, is it better to collect login credentials at the start, at the end, or when the user chooses to save their application and return to it later?

  • What are some of the benefits and problems you've worked out for each scenario? If they save an incomplete application, does the user have the option of using the log in details to log in before they complete the registration?
    – dennislees
    May 14, 2016 at 22:09
  • Yes, the ability to save an incomplete application is a new feature we're building. The decision is whether to collect login credentials at the beginning, or when the user chooses to save their application. Collecting them up front means the user has an account, which adds to their commitment and increases their chance of completing the application. (So the theory goes.) But it also feels a bit pushy and not necessarily relevant until the user decides to save. May 15, 2016 at 2:41

2 Answers 2


I have never found multi-paged registration processes to be required.

Most of the time I opt for a 'progressive disclosure' model where the user is only asked for details when they are needed for a particular operation.

Lets say that you want to capture the users email, name, postal address, credit card details, and date of birth.

If you ask for it all up front there is a strong chance that they will refuse, get bored, get frustrated or find some other reason to abandon the process.

If, however, you just ask them for an email and password combination and then show them a profile with all the spaces then they can choose what to add and when. If they decide to buy something then you ask them for their credit card details, name and postal address. You might have an offer that they can only qualify for on their birthday - They'll have to go and add their date of birth... Basically you only ask for the details when the are needed to complete the task in hand.

The process can be speeded up by offering incentives for complete profiles (as stack exchange does) or by showing reminders that the users profile is incomplete (as Linked in does).

The point is that once the user has login credentials they can return when they like to add items to their profile or profile items can be collected during other processes and added to the profile.

In other words: Always set the login credentials first.

  • while I have seen many multi page registration forms (eeeew!), this answer not only is great, but IMHO it deals with the core of the problem: is a multi page registration form really, really, really, REALLY needed? And if the answer is yes, think again: just by doing things right the problem wouldn't even exist!
    – Devin
    May 15, 2016 at 20:35
  • To be clear, this isn't a registration for a social network or some app. It's for a financial investment, for which the user must provide extensive documentation and other information the may not have on hand when they begin the process. However, none of the items are optional. That said, since you don't seem to think asking for login credentials up front is in any way pushy (my immediate concern), then I'm feeling like this is probably the way to go. May 16, 2016 at 0:45
  • I have a fair amount of experience with detailed banking forms and know how complex they can be. I also know how busy and distracted banking staff can get as well as how secure the forms need to be. Collecting the login details early means that you can have a short session duration that logs out an inactive user after a just a few minutes. I would also negate the need for the user to save information manually by saving on the fly when fields are completed - That way, if they do get logged out, when they come back all their stuff is still there. May 16, 2016 at 7:42

Ask up front

Think about the emotional state of a user who is saving to complete later.

They are likely doing this because:

  • They have form fatigue
  • They have run out of time
  • Something more important has come up

In any of these scenarios, asking for log in creds when they choose to save, adds an unexpected and likely undesired step, burdening a user who just wants to be done. It communicates:

Oh, you want to save for later? Ok, but first go through the process of deciding a username and password

Asking up front is conventional enough that users are likely to accept it without issue. Some might find it “pushy”, but it’s not unreasonable.

So, asking up front gets it out of the way, and turns the communication at the point of ‘save for later’ into:

Oh, you want to save for later? No problem. Just follow the link in your confirmation email when you’re ready

  • Excellent rationale. Why make them fill out another form when the reason they're saving for later is because they're tired of filling out forms. I like it. Thanks! May 16, 2016 at 0:45

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