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?
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.
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