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Why Users Don’t Fill Out Sign Up Forms (uxmovement.com)
150 points by voodoochilo on Apr 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

These are all really just UX-focussed _improvements_ to make it easier for a user to fill out forms. From a _users_ perspective - well, at least my personal perspective - the reasons are a lot different:

1. I am not convinced you need the information you are asking me to fill out - especially if I am just trying to figure out what your service does. Generate "guest" credentials for me if you want me to try it out. I am really not going to bother registering at the dozens of new services I try out (or attempt to try out) every week. Not worth it. Once I have taken it for a test drive and am convinced the service if of value to me, I will gladly fill out the information needed, but yet again, will refuse to provide even a single bit more than I consider _strictly_ necessary to provide the service. For example, If you are providing say, email alerts using text messages, I do not see why you need to have my A/S/L.

2. I do not believe it when a new service "promises" to keep my information private and secure, or to never spam me. This promise is rarely kept - maybe it was meant when it was made, but soon the service gets new investors, maybe a new marketing head who believes _her_ new email newsletter is NOT spam, etc etc. You know the best way to have that promise kept? To not share the info in the first place!

3. For the same reason, I will not give you access to my FB/Twitter credentials by using their SSO solution to sign-in to your service. That's Too Much Information. SSO - BrowserID or whatever, is not a solution in this context. Its merely a way to reduce the impact of a problem which shouldn't exist in the first place!

4. Each form is preventing me from doing what I wanted to do - try out your offering. Decide what is more important to you - that I try out your product, or that you get another row filled out in your marketing database?

5. Sure, a well designed form is better than a badly designed form. Whats even better? No form at all. Imagine a brick and mortar retail location wishing to interview me regarding my personal info, buying habits etc before they allow me to enter and browse. Never happens. Instead they try to entice you later, once you have actually decided to purchase something, to signup for their loyalty card to gain that additional info.

[...] Generate "guest" credentials for me if you want me to try it out.

This can not be stressed enough. Have a working live-demo, accessible with a single-click. Not screenshots. Not screencast. And for god's sake not "Schedule a Webinar". Live demo, period.

I can't count the number of times I've been mildly interested in a service but couldn't be bothered to fill out anything just to see how it really feels.

Stripe.com has it right. They do offer registration but you're free to "Skip this step" and with that one click you're dropped right into the live-dashboard to play around and explore.

I built a small blogging engine http://substancehq.com, and have had more than 30 throwaway blogs created by "generated guest credentials" on the first day. This is a great thing for a new guy like me. However, most users don't follow through and finish the sign up, which tells me that the app itself is not appealing to the users. This approach is a lot better than having bounces off your signup form. I wonder why many people don't do this.

> I am not convinced you need the information you are asking me to fill out


I hate overly intrusive sites. If I'm buying something from you, you need to know who I am, fine. If you won't let me download the binary distribution of a GPLed software package without entering my name, email address and date of birth, then you get fake information.

I'll go to the point of using a throwaway email address if I have to.

Back 10+ years ago Amazon was one of the first sites that allowed you to shop and do everything without even registering right up until the point where you placed the order and made payment. At the time, most sites wouldn't even give you a working shopping cart without registering.

Amazon figured this out in the 90s. I don't know why sites persist in increasing the friction of attracting new users. I can only imagine it comes down to:

1. Being easier, from a development point of view; and

2. Misguided marketing wonks.

Either way, cut that shit out. Seriously.

And the same goes for only supporting Facebook/Twitter login.

You forget: 3. Monetizing through shady data-reselling channels.

Who cares if your data is not 100% correct because the occasional smart nerd will use a throwaway email? Somebody somewhere will pay something for the database and empirically prune it later on their own.

Especially for "free" services without a clear monetization path, that must be a strong temptation.

> Sure, a well designed form is better than a badly designed form. Whats even better? No form at all

When it comes to /true/ UX, I think this is pretty much it. Forms aren't necessary in a hell of a lot of times and often forms are reduced to reduce friction (with the goal seemingly to increase conversions) then ask for all true information later; I don't see the point.

As for the article, as you mentioned these are UX focused improvements. Just because forms have been designed with these improvements in mind, it doesn't mean these are actual factors the user is considering. I'm not saying this isn't true, but articles like these bother me a bit because they inferences and not fact as implied.

Why won't you sign in with Twitter? The best scenario for me is if they only require read-only access to your timeline. They don't get your email (I think), and they can't do anything to your account. It's pretty much the least amount of information you can give, since all the Tweets are public anyway.

1. Its not simply about they not being able to "do anything" to my account. Its the linkage. Maybe I use my real name on twitter, and I do not wish to use it with the service I am trying out (or the otherway round). The linkage extends even further. If I signin to both, service A and service B with the same twitter login, now these two can link to each other, without any assistance.

2. It takes mental effort to keep track of all the permission I may have granted to various services from my various identity providers. If I want to disable access, I need to make extra effort. If there is no linkage, I merely forget it about it and it goes away. Even you say "They don't get your email (I think)" - that "I think" right there is the problem. I would have to keep (and maintain) a mental checklist of everything I am providing access to when I use a syndicated login service.

3. Permissions evolve. Twitter may change its access policies, a new hack might allow privilege escalation. Each time this happens, I would need to review what apps have which permissions. For services I actively use, I am willing to put in that effort If absolutely needed, but for something I tried out as an evaluation, its not worth the hassle.

As I said, until I am convinced I am going to be using the service, I do not wish it to stick around in my "apps with permissions" list, or anything else for that matter. If I try it out, and decide it aint for me, I just want to navigate away and never think about it again.

Possible reason - lack of a Twitter account. I don't have one and have little interest in ever obtaining one as Twitter doesn't solve any problem that I have.

I could create a Twitter account and only use it as proxy credentials, but that seems like needless complexity.

> Twitter doesn't solve any problem that I have.

Sounds like you contradicted yourself...

If Twitter is marketing itself as an authorization service, then I am contradicting myself. It doesn't do that, however, and using it as a proxy for that is an unnecessary hoop for me to jump through.

How? I'll just create a password manager entry for the site, just like any other site. If I'm asked random silly required questions, I'll lie if I don't think it benefits me in some way or is truly required.

Most users at this point (not desiring external auth) would just give up unless they saw a huge need for the service.

My #1 pet peeve is annoying address fields.

I live in New York. Why can't I type "New York", "NY", or have the system figure out where I live by zipcode. Instead, I get some sort of pull-down menu.

You already asked me where I live and I filled out the stupid form. So you know that I said "New York". And that I gave you a US-formatted zipcode. And that I came from a US IP-Block. And that my browser language is en-us. So why do you have a mandatory field for "Country" implemented as a massive pull-down with Afghanistan listed first?

I am still pleasantly surprised by country pulldowns that list the U.S. first. It's like, wow, the author actually tried filling this thing in once or twice.

Which doesn't solve the problem at all. Unless you live in the US.

There's a startup niche for 'user friendly address entry in forms'.

Companies in other countries are free to pick a different default; I just happen to primarily deal with US companies who themselves market to a US customer base.

#1 rule for dropdowns should be to pick a sensible default. If I'm buying a plane ticket from JFK to SFO, and Afghanistan is your best guess for my billing address, you absolutely suck at guessing.

Damn, you're so right.

This sort of data gathering is boring and nobody wants (or has time) to spend time trying to refine it; frameworks try to automate/simplify this sort of development task as much as possible, but that's not their core mission, and we can't all use the same language/framework anyway.

A simple service that works well and packs lots of intelligence (properly auto-defaulting address info, handling shipping/billing/company details, including VAT, automatically linking social networks where possible, etc) must be worth something.

There is surely something to be said for making it a little easier for people in the world's largest single-nation economy to give you money.

There is surely even more to be said for making it a little easier for people anywhere in the world to give you money.

I'm equally annoyed by people (in a non-personal setting) who asks me my birthday (down to the year) and then asks my age. The person asking is almost always some sort of government/healthcare agent (because most other people are not legally allowed to ask birthday in the first place) filling out some administrative form (paper or online).

Any data entry system which cannot eff-ing figure out my age from my yyyy-mm-dd birthday is an idiot, and deserves to have me "oops-I-calculated-it-wrong" my age.

The most dominant reason for me not to sign up to most random services is that I'd have to manage another set of credentials. There are tools for that, but it's still a hassle (and I value my time). Just use SSO solutions like clickpass (I'm in no way affiliated, just the first thing that came to mind), and I might stick around, if I like what you provide.

That's a major factor why many of my new projects use BrowserID. The upsides are that I don't have to worry about compromised password or verifying email addresses.

The downside is that it adds a dependency on Mozilla to keep their service up and that it isn't widely adopted yet, but I'm figuring it has legs.

I use BrowserID because it takes 5 minutes to integrate, whereas styling and testing all the password change/reset/confirmation/whatever pages takes the better part of a day.

You don't have to depend on Mozilla, you can do your own verification if you like, so nothing leaves your site.

A side-project I made, http://www.yourpane.com, is even simpler: Just enter your email in the box and you get a sign-in link which you can bookmark. No passwords or anything.

I'm curious about the YourPane login method. Is it open source?

No, but I just generate a token for each user and send it to their email when they request it (an account is created if that address doesn't exist). There's a URL that accepts the token and logs them in, that's pretty much it. Hardly anything to open-source.

Even worse, as the article mentions, is having another set of credentials that you can't ever delete. I don't want hundreds of different websites all with an account for me that I'm not ever going to use.

you can't ever what?

SSO is good for free apps. If I built a premium app, I would be reluctant to rely on Facebook or Twitter to protect my customers' paid accounts or the access to their credit card numbers.

Totally reasonable. And as a social networking Luddite, I also appreciate you being hesitant to cut me out of your pool of potential customers in punishment for the offense of not already being a customer of an unrelated company.

But in turn, I might be reluctant to trust you with my credit card numbers. And to be honest I do get sick of having to come up with more un/pw combinations to remember.

What I'd really like to see more of is using OpenID for third-party authentication, and also some third party (I hate to say PayPal, but. . . PayPal) for financial transactions. Because it does save both of us from having to navigate that whole quagmire of trust & authentication yet again.

Not to mention that if you did then I couldn't log in from the office.

All valid issues, but none of them blocking IMO.

1. You'd certainly have to choose the right sources for SSO. I'd say people usually trust their Google account, so that's a good start (and Google does payments, so they make sure to keep it tight). Then go from there, I'm sure other dominant platforms have similar offerings.

2. You can provide an alternative set of credentials. HN is an excellent example. You can log in via id+password, OpenID or clickpass.

3. I will resist signing on until I know you (your application) better. It is more effective to get my attention first (with something like a limited intro, showing what's it about) and once I get hooked, present the payment options. Putting up a pay wall before showing anything is putting me off. Start with light authentication and then add to it once money enters the game.

ps. Requiring users to create new credentials also results in the "one password for everything" phenomenon that's so prevalent. I very much doubt that that will increase security. I'm more inclined to believe that it will do the opposite, as your service will most likely get the less secure/shared password from the get go (remember, you customers don't know how much they will value you later on).

The conventional wisdom that asking for credit card on free trial signup is bad for conversion is hardly an established fact. Sure, more people will fill out the form (which is admittedly the point of this article), but whether or not you'll get more paying customers depends on too many factors for there to be a one true answer. Here's a good discussion of this issue: http://www.quora.com/For-web-apps-is-it-better-to-ask-for-th...

Also, some nitpicking: SSL has nothing to do with encrypting information on the server.

But the article's not talking about conversion rates, it's talking about user experience. It's taking the site user's perspective, not the site owner's.

Asking for credit card details before starting your free trial inevitably seems scummy from the user's point of view. It's awfully reminiscent of those services with a "free trial" that start charging you automatically the moment the trial ends, and make it difficult & laborious to cancel -- those AOL discs being an infamous example.

I'd also consider it a violation of points 4, 5, and 6, to varying degrees. Why should I go to the trouble of digging out my card, copying in & double-checking the numbers (point 5), just so you can hold onto it in a way I can't know is secure (point 4), when you shouldn't even need it (point 6)?

Customer experience is only a means (however important) to better business performance. Even the article title suggests that it's considered in that context. And frankly, I fail to see what other context can there be.

But more importantly, notice how I refer to it as customer experience. I couldn't care less about the experience of a random user who is never going to become a customer. Maybe I want to deliver better service to a smaller subset of customers. Is it a downgrade from the customer's perspective? I don't think so.

By asking for the credit card right away I'm simply sending a message that I need some commitment from you before I give you something for free. Yes, it is definitely less enjoyable for the user than the other way. But my point is that viewing it purely from this perspective is useless.

"A random user who is never going to become a customer" may still recommend your service to others, if they like your site in principle, but decide after trying it that it isn't for them. Or, if they come away with a good impression, they may think of you before your competitors if they need such a service later.

For instance, I've never given http://nearlyfreespeech.net a cent personally, because I don't need a website at present -- yet I've recommended them to about half-a-dozen people who've gone on to sign up with them, because their website makes it easy for me to understand what they've got going for them. Also, when I do need a small website, they're at the top of my list for hosting.

As such, structuring the UX so users who are currently ambivalent about paying you in the future are forced to make a decision now may be good for your conversion rate, but I don't believe it's self-evidently good for the size of your customer base long-term.

Consider a real-world analogy: if I go into a shop, just to browse, with no intent to buy anything at the time, and the staff are frosty to me because of that, I'm gonna badmouth that shop to my friends. I believe most people would do likewise.

Maybe I'm just an idealist, with my liking to think of the business-customer relationship as a co-operative one, with both sides working for their mutual betterment. The "customer experience is merely a means to higher profits; if it needs sacrificed to achieve that goal, so be it" attitude turns that relationship into an adversarial one. I find that... distasteful. To the point that I go out of my way to avoid businesses that I feel are trying to manipulate me through their UX -- the archetypal, pushy door-to-door salesman, for instance.

Maybe that's just me. I like to think not.

Thanks for pointing that out, in fact a site assuring me that my information is secure because they "use SSL" makes me wonder if they really understand security at all.

Another nitpick: its "any time" not "anytime". Drives me nuts.

This sounds terrible, but for me at least it is true.

I don't fill out forms unless I have to because I sit back in my chair, relaxing surfing the web, and use my mouse almost exclusively to do so. To fill out a form I have to move and do something. I have to shift my comfy position, lean forward and get both hands involved. Too often I will find that I wasted my time and effort as what I get for filling out a form was simply not worth it.

Honestly, and perhaps, tragically, that is the real reason why. Other reasons, like those in the article, do play a part, but effort is a huge part of it.

If there were some way that I could fill out a form by clicking my mouse a few times, I'd be more likely to.

> 5. Too much work to fill out compared to value gained

You're not really that different - sounds like number 5 precisely.

Well, that just goes to show how lazy I am. Its funny. I read the article, honest, and I with out reading it again, I don't remember that at all. Some thing is wrong...

In fairness to me, I was more thinking that pathetic physicality of it, which I think is kinda different. But, I suppose I'm too lazy to argue it. So, I take the gentle slap :)

Reason Number 9: User can't figure out the captcha and finds its seriously annoying when repeatedly trying.

ReCAPTCHA is terrible at this. It doesn't achieve its goal of reading books well, since it frequently brings up words that use unusual letters or diacritics that most users won't be able to type. Because of those letters, transliterations by one user can be wildly different from another, making the system think you got it "wrong". And finally, they're often hard to read.

It does achive it's goals. It uses two words. One word that they know what letters it is and one that the letters is unknown.

Read more here: http://www.google.com/recaptcha/learnmore

Tangentially, has anyone seen the actual hard data produced by recaptcha? It's hard to say whether it's effective or not, without looking at actual numbers (i.e. ratio of correct results, average results per image etc etc).

The one thing that kills me is having a service that invites you to sign up with Twitter of Facebook, but then afterwards also requires you to fill out a huge form with all of your other info. The whole point of signing up with Twitter of Facebook is that it's supposed to be quick and simple. Forms like that defeat the purpose.

Absolutely. I've tried to "sign up with Facebook" about five times, and four of those times, after "signing up" it asked me to enter my email, create a username & password, and fill in my first and last name. I was optimistic that the pattern would change, but now I completely avoid using any external Facebook account integration.

I hate that too. You have given your facebook data and they still ask for more and you still haven't tried the service yet.

I would add a ninth reason -- perceived length. Over the course of my career, it's been proven true that conversion rates are higher when the shorter the form appears to be. Basically, don't ask for anything that isn't necessary from a data perspective, and if you do, hide everything until it's absolutely necessary.

Always A/B test. I recently shortened a registration form and it REDUCED completion rates by 20%. Especially surprising to me considering some of the questions removed were highly invasive/personal.

I've also done a ton of testing on high traffic forms and reducing forms from 7 to 5 fields had a negligible effect on signups.

Also dont forget the emotional experience of using your site. Hiding fields might make them continue filling it out longer, but it might leave a negative impression on your company for not honestly showing how much work its going to be from the beginning.

Zendesk has this one figured out. Look at the signup form: http://www.zendesk.com/product/pricing

It appears to be only two fields. Only when you start filling out the two fields do you discover it's actually six fields (still not long, but longer than the initially perceived length).

Why would you add it as "a ninth reason" when this is already in TFA as #5 and #6?

That's reason #5 from TFA. No?

Reason Number 0: Because your users have decided they aren't THAT into signing up with you, after all.

It may sound like a conflation of the other reasons that were listed (just lower the barrier and people will care enough to sign up), but it's more important than that. I have to tell this to my clients (website developers) over and over again - No matter how much you tweak your signup form, the single and best asset you can have in enticing signups is something that the user really, really wants to sign up for.

Put differently - There surely is some wiggle room in pushing a couple of percentage points out of your signup statistics, but that often ranges with the margin of statistical error.

No optimization will ever make up for asking users to sign up for something they don't actually want or need.

While blog posts like this one are nice for people who obsess about optimization, I have seen them do a lot of damage - for instance, I still get people who are convinced that the one thing that is holding back their business is having a four page signup (membership selection, registration details, confirmation, checkout) instead of a three page setup. Some even go so far as to demand that everything should be on a single page.

In my experience, there is a clear, inversely proportional relation between the obsession over signup optimization and the value that the website offers to customers.

If your website gives out free gourmet food and massages, you can literally require people to fill out ten page forms and ask for confirmation via standard mail - your signup form will still convert users like crazy. At the opposite end of that scale, there are forms like the recent April Fools joke 'Google Nigeria' - the simplest possible form: Enter your Credit Card details and be done.

Sorry about the rant, but this (pardon my french) wanking about optimization has produced a lot of endless, annoying discussions with clients who burn up all their time on optimization - time that they should have rather put into having a sound business idea that people would actually care about.

(And yes, I know that #5 and #8 go in the same direction as this rant, but they just range in a completely different category and all this just triggered my rage mode.)

I am very loathe to trust this article because a) there are 8 reasons mentioned. If you're trying to change your design, you want the top 2 or 3 that give you the most bang for your buck.

and b) because the author doesn't say where s/he got this data from. Was it a diary study? Interviews? Observational studies? Introspection?

Without knowing how hte data was generated, I don't see why it should be trusted (yes, it may be valid, but would you spend the next 8 hours "fixing" your site based on someone's quickly written article?)

Your complaint b) seems to apply to everything recommended by the uxmovement.com site. This is interesting to me because of things like the infamous '41 shades of blue' at Google: http://stopdesign.com/archive/2009/03/20/goodbye-google.html

> This application will not be able to...

^-- should read "This application will NEVER..."

It's easier to skim read and more finite imo

Slightly different meanings. "Never" seems like a promise, whereas "not able" seems like a technical limitation. Although, I suppose the application could be altered to enable the malicious function, so I see why you prefer the promise.

Or even better: "WE will never..." That way it doesn't sound like you're trying to weasel-word a (meaningless to the user) distinction between your company and your product.

Agreed; in general you should avoid passive voice.

I think that advice is a bit antiquated. There are plenty of times where the passive voice is ideal. One very common reason to use the passive voice is that the end of a sentence is the ideal place to put something you want emphasized:

This house was robbed!


Someone robbed this house.

See the difference?

Actually both phrasings are in active voice- rather it's a difference of abstract vs concrete language.

FYI: neither of those fragments used the passive voice.

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