How to optimize your signup experience?
There’s often a debate that happens at companies – should you force registration or should you allow your site to be open to users and then hope to provide enough value that they register later.
While I understand the merits of the second and think that optimizing the experience to reveal some parts of the site is great, giving the entire experience away for free is a waste of an opportunity to capture the email and other valuable information about a user. It’s telling that the majority of leading web services force you to register (and most always have).
The intent of this post is to describe how to optimize your reg wall to get the most people through your process, to collect the critical information you need, and have as low a bounce rate as possible.
There’s also a lot of evidence that collecting more email addresses is almost always a net positive for revenue and engagement.
There are going to be a series of multiple posts going through various important parts of how to optimize your registration experience. In the first one, I’m going to do a quick case study on how to optimize the actual reg wall itself and the experience around it.
Optimizing the modal popup (or the signup screen in your mobile application).
A lot of people don’t realize that with a lot of simple testing and tweaking, they can drive significant incremental site signups through optimization of their reg wall.
In my previous experience at multiple companies (One Kings Lane, Rewarder, IMVU, etc), just running simple tweaks and improvements for the signup experience lead to an increase of 25-50% (and often more) in signup percentage rate.
What should you focus on?
There are four key areas to focus on for a registration wall:
- Don’t ask for too much information
- Escalate the commitment of a user
- Make your CTAs clear and understandable
- Add alternate signup options
Here’s a reg wall that I’ve often used as an example that looks good to the naked eye, but that has lots of optimization opportunities:
On the surface, this is a totally reasonable registration experience, but there are a number of flaws that can be easily corrected.
Asking for too much information up front
For one, collecting an abundance of information at signup leads to drop off in total registration. Historically, when I’ve removed fields such as first and last name, you can see double digit improvements in your account creation rate. Additionally, there are always later opportunities to collect this information, especially if you are an E-commerce website or you have a well designed first time user experience.
In general, collecting zip and country are other pieces of information that you could likely more easily get through geo-location or later in the signup experience.
Escalate the commitment of the user
Another tactic that I’ve had lots of success with is escalation of commitment. Zulily’s registration experience is a great example because they only ask for a single piece of information on each screen of registration. We did the same thing during the One Kings Lane signup process. (this is the game theory definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escalation_of_commitment)
This happens because when a user has already submitted one piece of information, they are more likely to feel compelled to continue through the signup experience rather than abandoning. This is the same reason that many checkout experiences are multi-step flows instead of being one single long page. From this alone, I’ve seen 10-15% increases just by asking for email on screen one and a password on screen two.
Additionally, it enables you to figure out which parts of your signup experience are creating drop off. If you notice that 80% of people provide email addresses, but then half of those users drop on the next screen, you know where to optimize and improve.
Lastly, you can collect initial information in a multi-screen flow, creating opportunities for re-engagement.
Having a single wall of information like the example above does not optimize for the highest possible number of email captures because it doesn’t escalate commitment
Make calls to action clear and consistent.
Your CTAs should be large, obvious, and clear. Lots of sites still have small buttons in the corner, oftentimes with copy that isn’t compelling and doesn’t get the user to take the right next step. Don’t ask the user to just “join” or “signup.” Make the CTA action oriented, something like “see your rate” for a loan site, “view recommendations for you” for shopping, or many other action oriented types of text. And don’t forget to aggressively test the elements of copy, placement, and color.
Also, CTAs should be easily clickable and/or tap-able. Many users are going to view your site through their tablet, through their phone (hopefully your design is responsive), or through other devices. Don’t make any of the touch points hard to tap or designed only for the accuracy of a mouse click.
Lastly, once you find a good CTA, re-use the color, sizing, and placement. Train your users to expect the same CTAs throughout your product – don’t make them learn something new with each page or experience.
In the example above, “Join for Free” is not a particularly compelling CTA. It doesn’t tell you anything about the benefits you receive or why you should want to join. And in general, users assume they get to join for free if they haven’t added a credit card. It doesn’t add value to the signup experience.
I found this to be a particularly good read about optimizing CTAs that summarizes a lot of my feelings: http://positionly.com/blog/inbound-marketing/call-to-action
Provide alternate signup sources
Including facebook, google, and in some cases twitter or linkedin has a high probability of increasing signup conversion. The ease that each provides makes the process easier for new users. They also each offer the ability to get incremental information from the user (but be careful – the more information and access you ask for, the less users will actually complete the signup process during the off site authentication steps. I believe there keep be a 1-2 point dropoff with each additional authorization you ask for through facebook).
I haven’t yet seen a scenario where completely getting rid of email only signup trumped email + other signup services. Users want to know they have the option of email registration even if they don’t ultimately use it.
Examples of good registration experiences:
Gilt has a pretty effective design in my opinion:
They do a good job with a lot of the elements discussed above:
- Limited number of fields per screen
- Escalation of commitment throughout the process
- Fairly clear CTAs (some of the button copy could likely be improved)
- No confusion about what to do next
- Option to register with facebook for ease
Our final design at One Kings Lane looked like this. Similar to Gilt, many of the same elements are at work here. We were missing alternate signup options.
In my next post, I’ll discuss how the experience surrounding the reg wall can have an enormous impact on the success of your registration process.
What other best practices or good examples have you seen in reg. wall optimization?