I'm building a website where users may interact with the company (It is the real estate business) to request a budget, ask for information or other type of interactions. The interactions are made via contact form or other type of request, ex. button to request budget about an specific product.

Note I'm not talking about a simple contact to ask for information about the website, a phone number, etc. It's a more concrete contact about schedule a visit, more information about a specific property and so on.

It isn't an obligation to have the user logged in to start these interactions, but once he got engaged it will be necessary to have a login to proceed or either to buy a product. We have a dashboard where users who already have a login can access all these contacts, supports, history, etc..

To create a better fluid introduction for the user into the web site, I'm thinking about creating the user's account progressively without actually clicking on a button "Create account" (this option will also be available), but, of course, with the user doing all the process. Let me try to explain:

  • User access the website and send a message through the form, or other interaction we may have - Need to provide an e-mail.
  • The web site will automatically create a "Pending" account for that e-mail address where the user can access the dashboard but with a very limited access, only able to access the "Support" area, for example.
  • In the meantime an e-mail will be sent to that e-mail address asking users to access an specific link to add an password and some basic information, such as name, and actually create an account on the web site.

Is it acceptable to create such a process? What would be the bad user experiences by doing this? Or is it a good alternative?

The intention is to auto introduce the user on the environment and already show what he can have, how we are organizing our interactions, provide a good feedback we will keep an history of that conversation or possible purchase on the user "future" account.

  • This seems a bit underhanded. At first glance it might seem like you are trying to trick users into creating an account. Given that the users trust is at stake, what exactly do you see as being the benefit of this approach, as opposed to being more explicit?
    – dennislees
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 13:44
  • @dennislees The main reason behind it is to show users what they could have and use in our dashboard without asking them to create an account. Also it already creates a register of the interaction, so the user doesn't need to find that response we sent to his e-mail. Since the interactions is something that already needs a user interest in go further, I tought this could be a good approach. Commented May 19, 2016 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


From a user perspective, it is by default clearer if the options are simply:

a. Not have an account
b. Have an account

If you want to create an in-between option, it has to be clear to the user what the distinction is between the new option and options a. and b.

For instance:

  • If I get some access to dashboard with pseudo-account, what additional features do I get when I upgrade to real account?
  • Do I need to opt-in to some Terms & Conditions for pseudo-account? What additional Terms & Conditions are there for full-account?
  • If I get access to dashboard with pseudo-account, without password, how do I login? Or how do I identify myself to get my dashboard?
  • Does "pending" mean temporary? How temporary is that?

I am not suggesting a pending account is a bad idea, but it all depends on the design of the in-between option whether

  • the additional benefits: smoother transition, less barriers to next step, more choice, etc
  • outweigh the additional costs: an additional step to sign on, possible confusion about options.

PS: There may also be some legal barriers to a pseudo-account, depending where you operate (most European countries are quite strict this regard - e.g. Dutch law requires explicit opt-in and forbids any pre-filled check boxes with "I have read and understand terms") and the kind of personal/ contact data you have in your database.

  • Thanks for pointing out implementation vs idea, which is important distinction. Reworded my answer so as not to suggest that it is a bad idea. However, especially in UX, any idea is only as good as user acceptance of the implementation. Since OP is also explicitly asking for bad user experiences, I am hoping answers here will lead to better testing and better UX.
    – wintvelt
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 22:35
  • but i think you got the point. This implementation has potential, but need to bevery clear for the user what are the points e distinctions of this extra "type of account". Great explanation! Commented May 21, 2016 at 2:39

It looks like you're talking about gradual engagement. (I know it by another name, which I can't remember right now.)

Gathering small amounts of info from the user just when that info is needed is a great way to avoid huge forms. For example, registering for the site might require just an email and password. Using a shopping cart requires address and billing info (plus registration info, if they want to retain their info for the future).

The hitch here is that the user must know why you're asking for their information and what you're going to do with it.

  • that's what i was looking for. a smooth way forthe userto get into the system by seeing ehat are the benefits before actually going to create an account. Commented May 21, 2016 at 2:41
  • When you ask for tons of info all at once I'm suspicious, wondering why you want it. Ask for just what you need when you need it (explaining why you need it) and I have more trust in you. Commented May 21, 2016 at 12:25

This approach has become quite frequent in recent years. Trello for instance uses this same method, you can start playing with the platform before confirming the email, there is a visible sticky banner that reminds you to confirm the email. My observation is: if the web site automatically creates a "Pending" account for that e-mail address it will be "pending" for a limited time ( at least in my experience there is a deadline) after that the email is erased from servers and user needs to sign up again. So I would add a sticky banner like Trello does and remind the user to confirm the email, perhaps giving him/her a countdown before the email is erased and his/her preferences are lost.

Having said this it sounds like a lot of effort, I wonder if there are actual benefits from this approach.

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