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We decided to change how our sign-up form works. Instead of filling out the whole form and then sending a confirmation email to the user to activate their account, we only ask for their email on the sign-up page, and the rest of the form will be sent in the email.

We made this change for these reasons:

  • If you mistype your email address, you won't risk sending all of your personal information to someone else's email.

  • People won't be able to send confirmation emails that "trick" other people into activating their account with your email address.

  • Our form is pretty long. In the original system, users may get intimidated by the number of fields they need to fill out. In our new system, they'll be more likely to fill out the rest of form, because they've already registered their email address (they've already started the registration process, so they're more likely to finish it).

There're many advantages to this system (or so we thought). What are some disadvantages of this system?

  • Sounds interesting. How do you get the user to fill out the rest of the form in the email? Is it a link to a web page which then asks the rest of the questions? – Jonny Aug 31 '16 at 21:47
  • @Jonny Yes, it is a link to a webpage that asks the rest of the questions. (But it's secured, so a user that hasn't registered their email address can't access the page.) – clickbait Sep 1 '16 at 2:57
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Seems like a pretty good "soft entry" system to me, as long as they can't game your system by putting in their email, getting the goodies from your site, and then never filling out the rest. But that sort of progressive information gathering often tests better and leads to more conversions than throwing a whole long form in their faces.

If you can provide them with some little token of good will as soon as they've given you their email address - a white paper, access to something, etc. - so much the better; they will be even more likely to give you the rest of their information if you conduct the relationship as a give-and-take (a classic Cialdini principal of reciprocity: Cialdini's Six Principles)

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Disadvantages:

1) Maybe you run the risk of never getting some important information off a user and therefore cannot fulfill your service in the most effective way possible?

2) If the extra form information is used to link a user to sensitive data in your system you run the risk of

  • Authorising information that a user has not provided enough proof of identity to be able to see. You need ways to security audit your development so that the system doesn't get accidentally changed to allow this. A developer might not understand this design decision and assume if you are registered you have access to everything.
  • Giving a gateway route in to identity theft. I.e. "I have access to this service as this user, therefore that proves I am x so can I get access to a different service".

These are the only disadvantages I can think of. It depends on what your service is. I suspect you can mitigate any disadvantage quite easily, I think the intent of what you are trying to do is sound.

You could also use the exercise as an chance to question why you need all the data you are asking for. Make sure you understand exactly why you need each piece of data and what it is used for, and importantly make sure your user understands this too.

For instance I am always suspicious why sites ask me for my age and gender, but if they tell me it is because they are filling a legislative obligation to make sure I am treated fairly and they give me appriopriate options (not just male and female) then I don't mind.

If it is so I can be marketed to I want to know this. If it just because "it is on the form" and no one has thought about why they are collecting it - good candidate for getting rid.

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