8 Tips for Account Registration

A couple years ago I signed up for accounts at 87 of the top online retailer sites. I figured it was high time we revisited this topic, since most ecommerce sites use account registration and every sign up process I’ve seen has at least one area it can improve on.

Registration Form Usability Tips

1. Always state benefits of signing up in bullet form

Only 14% of retailers in my study were taking advantage of this.

Williams Sonoma is a good example of doing it right:

williams sonoma account benefits

Here are some suggested benefits:

* Faster check out
* Save multiple shipping locations
* Save multiple billing options
* Exclusive offers
* Order tracking
* View order history
* Faster customer service (reps can pull up customer info quickly)
* Save items to wishlist
* Save
* Check reward point balances
* Incentives for referring friends
* Birthday and holiday reminders
* Access across partner stores (e.g. GAP, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piper Lime, Athleta)

2. Link to your privacy policy

Make your privacy policy link clear near the Create Account call-to-action. None of the tested sites leveraged this point-of-action assurance – but I did spot Gap using it:

gap privacy policy

3. Use asterisks

Using asterisks (*) beside fields that are required is a web convention. Customers usually don’t want to give away more information or fill in more fields than they need to, so this is a nice visual cue to assure them certain fields are optional.

Place your asterisk near the label, not at the far right side of the input field – much easier to scan.

Not this:

asterisks near input fields

But this:

asterisks near labels

4. Explain password rules

When asking customers to provide an email and password, clearly state the “rules” of the password up front (minimum number of characters, required numeric value etc).

2 years ago, Neiman Marcus didn’t show password rules, but they’ve since fixed this:

neiman marcus signup

In my study, 100% of retailers asked for passwords, but only 89% used a “repeat password” field. It’s a good idea to have one, since it’s easy to make a typing error when you can’t see the characters of your password as you type.

5. Avoid security questions. Instead send a confirmation email with login details.

Nobody remembers those things and according to user testing studies by Jakob Nielsen, customers really, really detest them. 20% of retailers in the study asked these questions. Be one of the 80% who don’t.

6. Allow customer to copy billing address to shipping address

Just like in the checkout, this can save the customer time.

copy billing address to shipping

7. Don’t pre-check email opt-ins and don’t send promotions without gaining permission

Welcome emails are fine, and encouraged. Send your welcome email within 24 hours, if possible. The longer you wait, the less relevant your welcome message.

8. Allow customers to tell you their preferences

Using profile data for targeted selling purposes can be very effective. Improving the relevance of your merchandising, email campaigns and promotions can increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and conversion rates.

Disney Shopping is still one of my favorite examples of this:

Disney Shopping Preferences

Want to see the breakdown of my 2007 registration study? Check out this post, and companion post on welcome emails.

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17 Responses to “8 Tips for Account Registration”

  1. These are really great tips, especially the one about making the benefits of registration clear.

    Another tip would be to have a check box where people can opt in to your email newsletter. This makes registration a great way to start relationship marketing.

    Ray Wampler

  2. Good stuff, Linda!

    To add to #2 on the Privacy policy: try opening it in a popup rather than a new page or tab. Keep people on the action page.

  3. mauco says:

    Wow! Thanks. This is real priceless tips you are giving. We’ll start implementing most of them on our new projects immediately. Thanks for the post.

  4. Mark says:

    This is an excellent summary. It’s not surprising to see people hate the security questions on signup. Though it can still serve as additional security layer for banking/financial websites for example.

    PS: we just fixed our quote form to comply with the tip number 3 :)

  5. Great post.
    An extension to #4 could be realtime validation, e.g. showing an red x when you don’t comply with the password rules, and vice versa.
    - You could of cause ask why e-retailers even have password rules in the first place? On the sites that store your credit card for future use there might be a point with better security, but on all the other e-commerce sites that argument simply doesn’t hold up against the harassment your visitors must endure when you force them to use specific passwords (e.g. “must include a number”)

  6. Ido Ariel says:

    It will be interesting to see in 2010 how many retailers will take advantage of Facebook connect to provide a faster registration process for their customers

  7. Shay Howe says:

    I agree with you on number three, as far as using asterisks right after the label. If possible, however, I would urge to only ask for required fields. The less fields required to fill out by the users the less friction there will be in completing the conversion.

    I do understand that this is not always possible and some must ask for more information regardless if it is required or not. Just do your best!

    Thanks for the good read Linda!

  8. Marc says:

    I’d love to see some testing data supporting these points. Of course they all really make sense but it’s important to measure everything.

    And just to be pedantic, #1 lists only features, not benefits. I actually think benefits are often so obvious that features are OK (and simpler).

    But again – testing is a good idea.

  9. Cris says:

    Great tips Linda. Do you have any advice for handling the awkward step of requiring registration to view a lower price than manufacturers advertise? Some products have this manufacturer requirement that price be shown to only registered users and some do not, so we have a few sign up paths to consider 1) visitor wanting to see our lower price must create an account early in the process and 2) new visitor account reg for regular product checkout.

    • My understanding is that the non-advertised price can be shown in the cart, without registration. It just can’t be “out there” in the product page/search engine. Amazon lets you add to cart first as do some other discounters I’ve seen.

  10. John Hyde says:

    Is there any evidence that these obsessive-compulsive password rules actually make a user’s account more secure ?

    I mean is “po11yparrot” harder to guess than “pollyparrot” ? More secure in some other way ?

    I would love to see a study about this – I bet it has never been done and it’s just the blind following the blind.

  11. John re: pw strength, consider the formula for strength and the brute force method. The more possibilities to guess the more effort that most methods of breaking take. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brute-force_search

    Good tips. As for making registration consumer friendly, there is really no excuse not to point out or fix typos where possible.

  12. Great tips Linda – thank you. And yes security questions are a waste – I never put a valid question in those things. -

    What is your take on Facebook Connect vs Google Connect?

    • I don’t see much of a difference between the 2. I would look into offering both if you’re going to provide a social login option. Until it’s mainstream, it’s not a high priority in my book.

  13. [...] 8 Tips for Account Registration AKPC_IDS += [...]

  14. Janko says:

    Nice read. Some time ago I proposed a concept of registration without registration form which is designed primarily for e-commerce sites: http://www.jankoatwarpspeed.com/post/2009/12/12/No-registration-please.aspx

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