Signup forms have long irked the casual visitor. During the process of discovery, nobody wants to stop and fill out details before they can “unlock” the rest of the site’s potential. As web users become more and more fickle, signup forms are becoming an increasingly large barrier that repels many prospective visitors from great sites.
Fortunately there’s a new signup system in town that is making it much easier for the visitor to interact with the site and it increases signups. I give you: Lazy Registration.
Helping the web visitor only helps your site. One great trend that we’re starting to see in web development that helps visitors is “lazy” registration. Lazy registration is a process that allows the prospective user to test out many of the core features, save her sessions and data, and then when she’s ready to sign up everything is ported to her “new” account. Lazy registration is a way to allow users to try the site out before they sign up, no strings attached. Really clever sites have even found a way to bypass the signup form altogether. They slowly ask for data along the visitor’s path of discovery, and pretty soon she’s a member of the site, without having to fill out a form!
The Old System
So let’s contrast the lazy registration system with the crufty old signup forms most sites use today. Using the traditional method, users have to fill out a form (most of the time with too many fields), check their email, verify their email address, and only then are they allowed to start using the web site. The process creates a wall between the visitor and the user. You’re either in or you’re out, as the movies say.
Contrast the antiquated signup form method with lazy registration. Lazy registration almost always bypasses the traditional signup form and instead takes the data in other methods, without making the user fill out a long, unwieldy form. Lazy registration removes the barrier of entry into the site, as registered and non-registered are able to do the same things.
Increasing Engagement and Trust
Think about what kind of engagement sites would get if the user could get his hands dirty playing with the site’s features, and then later ask for his registration details? Or even better, the user just provides information sporadically, and the smart registration system figures out how to keep him into the system.
Also, when a site has a registration wall that the user can’t see over, it creates a level of distrust. How do you know that it’s worth your time to sign up? What is it like? What will they do with my data?
If the site allows users to easily start using the site, the trust barrier instantly topples. People will more than likely sign up for a product or site that they trust, and a great way to add trust is to drop a cumbersome registration barrier.
Great Examples of Registration Systems
Some sites have already implemented systems like this, and have definitely increased engagement. Here are 12 awesome examples of innovative registration systems that are leading the way in terms of usability for the visitor.
StackOverflow is bar-none the best question/answer site for web developers. What’s amazing about StackOverflow is that new visitors are able to answer a question right away, without having to deal with a pesky signup form. StackOverflow relies on the community to report spam or irrelevant questions. Engagment = +1.
The makers of the Magdex (used by The Guardian, The Times & about 150 other sites worldwide) have actually shared a video on how they used lazy registration in their job boards. Essentially, whenever a user fills out a job application, they take the information and create an account with it when the user clicks a checkbox that says “save my data”. All of the data is there in the first place, it only makes sense to store it without requesting the user to fill out a redundant form.
Picnik is a wonderful online image editor that requires no registration to start using their editing tools. It’s only at the very end of the editing process is the user asked to save his edited picture by creating an account. It’s brilliant, and Picnik gives compelling reasons why the user should save the picture which undoubtedly increases signups.
Netvibes has long since been the pioneer in allowing people to try their product before registering. You can create a start page, and your information is saved in a session until you register. The Netvibes mindset is that if you keep exploring the product, you’ll eventually find value and want to register with the site.
While Picamatic might not be the most well-known site in the world, it is an excellent and simple image hosting site that allows you to upload your images without having to create an account. You can even opt to have your persistent image link emailed to you, but you never register for an account. It’s a simple and non-intrusive way to quickly share images.
Blummy is another dead-simple application that allows you to make a quick bookmarklet to your favorite web services, consolidating them into one bookmark. While it isn’t the most complicated application, Blummy does a great job of not asking for user information when it doesn’t need it. You can always sign up for an account, but most people don’t need that kind of “commitment” from a bookmark manager, and Blummy has recognized that.
Kayak is one of the cleanest lazy registration systems around. When you search for vacation, car or flight prices, it saves your data and always keeps your recent searches on the right-side of the page, until you login or register.
My favorite file sharing site is Drop.io because of the clean interface and because I never have to register to use the full features of the site. In fact, they really don’t even have a user registration system until you decide to pay for an extended feature set (that most normal users wouldn’t need). The fact that Drop.io gets out of the way and lets users user their product unhindered only increases their brand and encourages referrals.
Doodle is easily the best way to schedule an event with a bunch of people. It kind of fuses a poll with a calendar application to allow prospective event attenders to pick the best dates/times for them to attend. Then it smartly decides the best time to host the event, based on the polling. But the best part about Doodle is that you don’t have to register, even to administer the polling results. Another great example of unfettered access for the user.
And last, but certainly not least, is Fusecal. You can find, add, update, modify calendars and export them to your calendar system of choice, all without having to register. The site keeps you coming back because it gives so much away. Once you create an account, your session data is automagically ported into your account.
Other Registration Resources
If you’re wanting to see a real example of an ajax cart that utilizes the lazy registration system, Ajax Patterns has created a demo shopping cart that stores data without users creating an account. It’s a great way to look under the hood to see what kind of resources it takes to start user data in sessions with ajax.
If you’re wanting more information about how to create better webforms, we highly recommend Luke Wrobleski’s book Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks. The book goes into much detail about how to get the most out of signup forms, and other best practices.