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More UI failure.

Registration systems are a failure.

Please, this is NOT a rant about Joel's choice. This is an informational post related to, well, registration systems =]

This article ( explains that a Register button prevented an online business $300,000,000 worth of sale. An experiment (need anything more scientific?) concluded that it was not helping at all. New customers did not want it, and the problem was worse for returning customers.

They found that 46% of customers have multiple accounts (some have more than 10 accounts.) 160,000 people request their password daily, and three quarter of the 160,000 never finish their purchase. The business somehow fixed the problem.

...they put a Continue button with a simple message: "You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout."

The web is our favorite hanging place. If registration systems are so bad, I think UI experts should really come up with a better solution. One customer sums it up to "I'm not here to enter into a relationship."

I'm thinking: many reasons bring people together on a website, and not necessarily that of the webmaster.
Victor the Python Artist Send private email
Friday, February 20, 2009
I couldn't agree more.  I *hate* when retailers force me to register when I'm making a purchase -- just let me purchase the damn thing. 

That being said, I just registered at one retailer where the registration was optional because I intend to do a lot of business with them.  But I'm also a power user.  Most users are not power users and would actually have an easier time retyping their information for every purchase (a simple cookie helps with that) then register.

I asked a question on Stackoverflow and got some great answers but I still haven't registered.  I just can't be bothered to get an Open ID provider, jump through the hoops, on something that should take 5 seconds and zero thought.  Just imagine what users are thinking at any registration page.
Almost H. Anonymous Send private email
Friday, February 20, 2009
I totally agree and won't buy from any site that I need to register for. I typically have no idea if I will ever do business with the company again or if I will even bother completing the sale. If I have to register just to test the waters I'd be gone. It reminds me of the Incredible Universe fiasco back in the 90's. Anyone else remember how badly Radio Shack did with that?

I have to wonder if the new JOS registration scheme is going to do a lot more damage than Joel realizes. I've already started a thread on the subject so I don't want to sidetrack this one with more JOS discussion. But your post makes me think of the impact it has on new forum visitors. New visitors are typically just here to "kick the tires" so they will be more likely to be put off by it than those of us who have been here a while. At some point the number of new members is likely to be less than the number of people leaving the forum causing a downward spiral.
dood mcdoogle Send private email
Friday, February 20, 2009
Forced registration is usually a scheme thought up by those businesses that treat their users like predictable cogs in their corporate machines. They don't talk to them, and they don't bother understanding how they think.

I say this because forcing registration makes a lot of sense to business managers. The primary benefit is that they gain your contact information, which is quite a valuable asset. In the most honest case, they figure they can use this to market their products to you in the future. In the least honest case, they can just sell your information, especially if they've required you to enter your position and industry as well.

Users need to have an explicit reason to sign up, such as simplifying frequent purchases or claiming ownership of their posts. Just because you force me to register doesn't mean that I will make frequent purchases or claim ownership of my posts. Anonymity is easy enough in most of these cases.

I feel like most companies don't realize that.
Ryan Kohn Send private email
Friday, February 20, 2009
At a higher, more abstract level, this is a requirements conflict between the user's desire to view information, and the website's desire to collect information.

I wouldn't blame this on the UI per se because even if we did adopt a magical cookie such that the user only has to click once to provide the information, some people will still think that's not worth it.  For example, why does the New York Times need my name, street address and phone number in order to display a newspaper article? 

I don't think you'll see a change until managers and executives get to the point where collecting every bit of information they can is - in the abstract - counterproductive.
TheDavid Send private email
Friday, February 20, 2009
The worst ones are online stores that force you to register BEFORE you can even see the products/prices!
And don't get me started on ones where you can't see the delivery charge on an order until you have put in your credit card.
Martin Send private email
Friday, February 20, 2009
Since Victor specifically said, "this is NOT a rant about Joel's choice," I will restrict my comment to ecommerce systems that ask for registration before the purchase.  It is just stupid design. 

Knowing what people actually spend their money on is far more valuable information than knowing what they look at while online shopping (or aimlessly clicking on hyperlinks between Freecell games) .  Anyone in direct marketing will tell you that your own customer list is your best prospect list, and the second best list is a customer list from your competitor.  I went to a BMW website once, but unless I fall into some spare money, BMW salespeople don't need to call me.

People are also suspicious of marketers.  People don't really mind being influenced, but don't make it obvious.  No one likes to look like an easy mark.  If you think there is value in data mining where people go on the Internet, there are more subtle methods than getting Joe Easy Mark to register BEFORE he is allowed to buy your 4 in 1 widget.

The annoyance factor has already been mentioned, and believe me, it is more than just a personal idiosyncrasy of the people posting here, absolutely no one enjoys being annoyed for no good reason.  Throw in a free hat with every annoying registration, and that is a different story.  There is no practical limit to the hoops people will jump through to get something for nothing  (although mandatory registration at The Joel on Software Discussion Group appears to be one exception).
RGlasel Send private email
Friday, February 20, 2009
I remember about fifteen years ago when Radio Shack put in a policy of asking for your name and address each time you made a purchase.  They didn't have a mechanism for knowing that you had already given them this information, so they must have had one heck of a de-duping problem.

And it wasn't just major purchases.  If you wanted to buy a lousy battery, they wanted to know your zip code.  It eventually led me to avoid that store for a while.  After a while, they dropped that practice. 

I think marketing types all want to cash in on loyal cusotmers.  The way you cash in on loyal customers is to keep selling a great product at a competitive price.  All the "Customer Relationship Management"  in the world can't substitute for this.
Walter Mitty Send private email
Saturday, February 21, 2009
"...when Radio Shack put in a policy of asking for your name and address..."

I can shed some light on that because the post mortem was discussed in a class I took.

At the time, Radio Shack wanted to be able to offer a service where if you bought a digital camera, you or a friend can come back into that same store six months later and buy the correct accessories; the clerk would be able to look up exactly which camera you bought.  Same thing with batteries, if you couldn't remember exactly which battery went into your watch, they could look it up.

The general consensus was that the program failed and was ultimately abandoned because...

a) the clerks didn't care enough to adequately explain the program,

b) they made asking for such personal details the first step of the process which turned annoyed a lot of customers,

c) the customer himself couldn't use the information (in the sense they couldn't look up their own details) which lead credence to the secret monitoring feeling,

d) the network at the time was so rudimentary such that it was rare to find two stores sharing the same database; looking up film for your camera while on vacation two states over, wasn't possible,

and e) while some people did find the service useful, those people made up less than 1% of the almighty same-store-sales metric.

Radio Shack was a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.  I imagine they felt it was better to start collecting the information now, before they fully fleshed out what they were going to do with it.
TheDavid Send private email
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Martin: "The worst ones are online stores that force you to register BEFORE you can even see the products/prices!
And don't get me started on ones where you can't see the delivery charge on an order until you have put in your credit card."

Sadly, I can top that.  In pre-Web days, one company was selling media (diskettes, etc.).  In order to see their prices, you had to fill out a credit app.


Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Monday, February 23, 2009
Couldn't agree more, a simple checkbox that says "remember me" should suffice!
GMT +1 Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I thoroughly agree with the discussion in this thread.

In fact I am currently setting up a retail website and deliberately left out the registration. I used to run an online bookstore and one of the most frequently accessed pages was "lost password".

If a customer has returned to your website and is ready to buy, the last thing you want is any disruption.

While they are waiting for the lost password email they will go make a cup of coffee, then little Johnny will wake up - an hour or two may pass then which website were they looking at again? Oh well let's have a look at some pictures of cats with funny captions.

The business should be able to generate sufficient statistics based on whether the email/phone/address matches on different orders. Or the IP address. Or cookies.

On the flip side voluntary registration can be invaluable if the customer wants to move your information around with you. The customer might want to add some products to their shopping cart while they are at work, then add a few more at home.
teambob Send private email
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

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