You need to avoid losing new users due to difficult signup process. If we’re honest about it, the best signup process would be no signup process at all. Unfortunately, that’s not always an option and you need that connection to your users. The easiest way, of course, is logging in with a social media account. But this should be the user's decision and an email alternative should also always be available.
So here we are going to describe 10 ways you can reduce unnecessary friction in the signup process and increase the number of new users who open an account.
It's important to mention that whatever you take away from here, the bottom line is that you need to test your own signup process with your own audience. Each and every product is different and so are the people using it. Even though the overall design is similar in many products, the real difference is in the details. To really know where your users have a hard time or even fail to complete the process, you need to see them trying.
1. Let them try the product first
You are likely familiar with the following situation; You install a seemingly interesting app, launch it for the first time and a brilliant splash screen fills your phone. Then maybe another screen welcomes you to the app.
And… That's it! Now you’re required to sign up if you want to continue.
This is where you ask yourself: “Should I sign up? What are the chances that I’m going to like this app?”. There’s a good chance that you’ll decide to just give up on it. After all, you’re not going to give your personal details to any random app that asks (unless it’s a really attractive app and you’ve been drinking).
Next thing you know, you’ve uninstalled the app and are looking for something else.
There are some products for which a late signup is not an option, such as messaging apps, however, if you do not absolutely have to require sign up as the first thing, just ask for it later.
Give your users time to get to know your product, to enjoy it, to benefit from it,only then ask for the signup. Because now they know what they are signing up for and there’s a better chance that they will want to.
Jakob Nielsen and Raluca Budio discuss the subject of late signup in their book “Mobile Usability”. There is an indisputably titled chapter dedicated to the subject: “Early registration must die”.
2. Give them a good reason to sign up
It's obvious to you why your users should sign up, but do they know? Your product has to clearly communicate to them at least one benefit of signing up. It could be the ability to save a collection, to take part in a discussion, to share content. Whatever it is, if your users are not aware of the benefits, they won't see a good reason to sign up. Keep in mind that yours is just one of many products asking each user to sign up and most those users are asking themselves "Why should I?" rather than "Why shouldn't I?".
3. Ask for signup in context
This is directly related to the previous point. If the request to sign up comes as a reaction to something that the user was trying to do, then the benefit is derived from the context. For example, the user wants to add a product to a collection.
The signup screen comes up and asks the user to sign up in order to complete the action. Now it’s obvious what the benefit of signing up will be and it’s needed to complete a desired action.
4. Only ask for the minimum
Every additional input field, dropdown or question that you require for signup is another obstacle in the way and will reduce the number of users who actually complete it. Take a good look at what you actually need to know in order to create the account and only ask for that.
As a matter of fact, you shouldn't really need more than an email address and password. And if you really need more info? Well then, break down the signup into steps.
In the first step ask for the essentials to setup an account and in the steps after that ask for anything else that you need. This way, if your new user abandons the signup process after completing the first step, you already have an account for them. Now you have the opportunity to send an email reminder, maybe even an incentive, to complete the signup process later.
5. Forget usernames
Selecting a username is a tedious task. Your users have to find a name that they like that’s not already taken. It’s a pain. It's also something that can’t, in most cases, be changed later. This is a big decision just to sign up and people don't much like decisions. Picking a user name is a good reason for some procrastination, and that isn’t something we want to encourage when we’re hoping for more sign-ups.
So, if, for example, you need to display names for social features, just ask for their real name. Just later.
6. Display error messages at the right moment
It's pretty simple. While the user is still typing, let's say, in the email field, it’s too early to complain that the address is not valid. Whenever I’m typing in my email address and after the first letter an error message comes up politely saying “Please provide a valid email address”I have a strong urge to yell at the screen “LEAVE ME ALONE, I’M NOT FINISHED!” Let them finish first.
On the other hand waiting for the "submit" button to be pressed to display error messages on multiple fields at once is too late. The right time to bring the users attention to an error in their input is when they have finished with that specific input field. How do you know that they finished? They moved to the next one.
You’ll also need to…
7. Write clear and actionable error messages
Displaying an error message at the right time is not enough. Its content has to be so simple that every user can understand it. Ah, but that’s not enough either. If possible, you should suggest ways to fix the problem. For example, Let’s say that you require passwords to be 8 characters long and have numbers in them. A user typed in a password that is long enough but doesn’t have a number in it. Instead of generally explaining the requirements "Password must be at least 8 characters in length and contain at least one number." it would be better to be more specific and suggest a solution by saying "Please include at least one number in your password."
8. Don't let the input field title disappear
There are many examples of products using the gray placeholder text within the input field to display its title. At first sight, it seems like a good way to save screen space and offer a cleaner design. The price is however paid in usability. As soon as the user starts typing, the title disappears and they have to rely on memory to type in the right information. In many cases, users need to look again at the title to be sure that they are typing the appropriate input. The only way, however, to see the title again in the described design is to delete the contents of the field, look at the title and re-type everything. That's a lot of unnecessary hassle just to fill out a form correctly.
9. Build a product that says "This is a company you can trust"
This is not just in the signup process, rather in the product as a whole. In order for a user to give you their personal details, they have to trust you. Since they can't meet you in persona, trust is built through the product itself.
And, unfortunately, it’s much easier to lose trust than to gain it. Designing for trust could probably be a complete book in itself, or at least a series of articles, which you can read here.
In short, I would say that building trust is in the details. And which details? Well, all of them.
Here are few examples of how to destroy trust: typos in the copy, inconsistent design, low-quality assets, wrong metaphors or idioms for common actions, bad performance, too many bugs, and so on. Basically, anything that a detail oriented person would get angry about. Users won't be able to point out the exact details that made them decide not to trust the product. It’s usually just a general feeling.
10. Send a confirmation email
Why? Several reasons.
- Typos – You can ask your users to type in their email twice (in which case, many will just copy/paste their address with the typo between the fields) or send a confirmation email and make sure that you have the right address. This way you will also have proof that the person did sign up.
- Fake Accounts 1 - There are users who sign up using fake email addresses. In many cases, these belong to real people who don't even know who you are. A few years ago we worked on a product that didn’t send confirmation emails. Don’t ask why. Every week, after the newsletter was sent out, the team received a bunch of angry emails from people who never signed up threatening to sue the company. So why did they get our newsletter? You guessed right. Someone else made up a fake email address to sign up and it turned out to be theirs.
- Fake Accounts 2 - People sign up with a fake email address because they don't really care about your product. They don't think that they are really going to use it. Given time, however, some of them might enjoy your product after all and will become valuable users. Now you don't have their real email addresses and chances are that they don't remember to correct it.
- People who forgot - There is also a group of people who just forgot that they signed up a while ago. Having your confirmation email in their email accounts might solve uncomfortable misunderstandings.
When building your signup process, always keep in mind that this is a sensitive issue. On one hand it’s way easier for users to leave you at this point than signing up. On the other hand there’s a good chance that signups are closely connected to your business and you really need them. The bottom line is; don’t underestimate the importance of every detail of this seemingly simple process.
Found and fixed an interesting problem in your signup process? Let us know about it in the comments below.