Taming the Registration Process One Step at a Time

October 1, 2013

Many of us have come to view online registration as a necessary evil. As part of our daily lives we access many secure applications for our healthcare and financial needs. It seems as though every site with which you’d like to create a relationship requires you to register at some point.

At Crux Collaborative we have conducted countless usability tests to help our clients better optimize their registration process, and what we have learned is simple… no one likes to register.

The registration process can often be perceived as an inconvenient roadblock standing between the user and whatever it is they are looking to do on your site. They will likely be trying to get through the process as quickly as possible by entering the least amount of information necessary to complete the process. Conversely, marketers often have a different goal than users and tend to lean towards asking a lot of questions in order to glean as much information as they can about their customers.

So, how do you strike a balance?

We recently evaluated a complex registration process for one of our clients with the goal of making the process as quick and painless for their users as possible. In our experience, there are a multitude of things that you can do to improve the registration experience for your users, while still getting the information that you need. Here are just a few of the ways that you can help to reduce the barriers that might exist for your users during registration.

Building Trust

People will only register if it’s required or if they trust you.

  • Make sure you capture only what is necessary to set up the account, and ask only questions that are clearly relevant to the users or the process. If you need a non-standard piece of information, explain why you need it when you ask for it. The goal should be to get the user through registration as fast as possible without losing their trust.
  • Avoid questions that present aggressive wording or error messages that may cause users to feel incompetent.
  • Privacy and security information should be easy to understand and jargon-free.
  • Avoid automatically opting the user in to receiving your newsletter or other communications. It should be their choice.

Example: Facebook

Example: Gmail

Example: Tablespoon

Managing Expectations

If your site requires you to have a multi-step registration process, it is important to manage your users’ expectations about how long it will take and what information they will need in order to complete registration.

  • Break the process up into logical steps. We see a lot of registration processes where items were added because it was easier to add them at the end of the flow versus integrating them into a logical spot in the process. Create chunks of “like” information and present them together.
  • Make sure the process is linear. Bouncing users around between steps creates confusion.
  • Tell users what they will need to know or have in front of them before they start the registration process. If they need a registration code or a member ID be sure to clearly communicate where they can find this information.
  • Display the number of steps in the process and show users how many are left. It is important to clearly designate where they are in the process.
  • Let the user know when they have accomplished a task by providing a simple confirmation message with a clear call-to-action about the next steps they can take now that they have registered.

Example: Big Cartel

Example: Freckle Time Tracking

Example: LinkedIn

Reducing Barriers

Creating a clear and easy to understand interface using forms is key to making the user not feel overwhelmed when they choose to register.

  • Try and carry over relevant information such as email address from one step to the next. Users will be frustrated if they have to enter the same information multiple times.
  • Autofill fields when appropriate. If the user gives you their zip code, odds are you will know their city and state.
  • Group similar things together and present one major topic at a time. For example, avoid asking users for some contact information in step 1 and additional contact information in step 2.
  • Remove external links that might take the user out of the registration process and off to a different site.

Handling Errors

Not having the ability to fix an error is what causes many users to abandon online registration, and in turn, pick up the phone to call customer service.

  • Provide actionable error messages. Don’t just tell users what the problem is; show them how to fix it.
  • Highlight the fields where the error has occurred with both a color and state change.
  • Avoid using red for anything other than an error message.
  • Provide help in-line rather than a link out to a resources page. If there is a complex process or data point users need to provide, make sure it’s clear where they can find this information.

Example: Tablespoon

Example: Twitter

By taking these few steps to simplify and optimize the registration process, you can help your company improve task completion rates of your registration process while at the same time improving the experience for your users.

Have a complicated registration process you are trying to tame? Contact us to learn more about how we might be able to help you.

By John Golden

John’s career in interactive media design began in 1995 and has spanned over two decades with a focus on developing simple, streamlined approaches for complex problems.

View John's Bio

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