Setting up for a new service requires work. Even entering your email and hitting a button is work. It would be great to have everything magically set up, but we’re not there yet.
Try an app or service requires mental effort from the user. If there is too much work needed, people will give up at some point and back out of the process. It has to feel effortless to the user or at least he has to feel that he’s getting more value from it that he is putting in.
Most of the apps and services we use require an account, and that’s ok. That’s how they can provide tailored content to us. Whether it’s linking something to the profile, saving data for future reference, sharing or taking ownership of content. You need to create an account.
How many services do you come across that require creating a profile before actually giving value first? Unfortunately this happens a lot and creators think that only what comes after the signup counts. You have to think about registration as part of the on-boarding process, as part of the complete user experience.
Why do we ask for user information upfront?
If you look at how apps are built and data is stored it makes sense to get the user information first. You need to create a user profile in the database because usage data needs to be linked to something.
When trying an app builder or an authoring development tool, what is the first thing that you usually get asked? Give it a name so that the subdomain can get created and all the technical wheels can start spinning. And only after all that setup and data entry you get to actually start using the service. Shouldn’t this be the other way around? You usually name a book after it has been written.
Wouldn’t it be better to give the user what he came for? If the user came to try an app builder, let him build the app, help him be successful and to instantly see the value. Only then ask “Do you want to keep your app? Give it a name and give us your email address.” The user will see why he has to provide all that information, and will gladly do so. At the end of the day he is getting more value.
But I cannot follow up with the user
I get it. Another reason why we want all this information as soon as possible is so we can follow up and sell to them later on. Well, that’s ok. Selling is all about providing value to the user, and is a very human thing to do.
Ask yourself what is the minimum information that you need? Usually an email address is enough. Don’t ask the user the whole deal, like email, first name, last name, company, password, security question … You can mostly get away with just the email address. You can also take also look at the social login pattern to quicken up the process as an alternative, then get back to providing value. This will smoothen the experience and will increase conversion rates from visitor to trial or whatever your next step looks like.
So why is it good to postpone the signup process
First and foremost you have to prove to the user that there is gain in using your app. Your number one job is to make them realize that they need your thing – How to do it? – Let them jump right in!
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are building an app for making videos. The user installs the app to her phone, starts it and sees a signup screen. In a better version, sees a number of slidable screens explaining the app, and after that a signup screen saying – let’s get you all set up to create your first video. After scrolling through 5 pages of information and then seeing that she needs to sign up, she decides that this not the time to do it, exits the app and never starts it again. You think it’s a win, because you are measuring downloads (vanity metric alert!) which certainly looks good, but doesn’t tell the whole story. After some time when she sees the warning about her phone filling up, the app gets wiped.
So where is the problem, how can you avoid this? Provide value first and then ask for the signup.
The user downloads and installs the app, then starts it right away with the goal of creating awesome videos. That’s what the app is all about, that’s why she installed it. The next thing should probably be something like checking if there are any videos on the phone. If there are, ask the user to pick a video or record a new one. If there are no videos, just ask to record. When the video is selected take the user right into it and show them magic. Give them the awesome video they are here for. And right after they see the magic, that’s your moment to give them more value by asking them “Hey, look at you, you are shining! Keep this video for yourself or share it with friends, let’s set up an account for you.”
Think about it, isn’t this better than starting with “Let’s create an account and then do your thing”.
Overcoming technical difficulties
One of the driving forces behind asking for user info upfront is to populate an account, then reference that account in the database. You can overcome this by either creating an anonymous user account on the client side, like on the phone or in the browser and then when the user is ready, upload it to the server. Another way of dealing with this is to create everything like before on the server, but instead of having a named user, have an anonymous account. This will require some periodic cleanup so that the database doesn’t get cluttered.
Explain value proposition
Sure, the user is giving you something, but in return of what? Help them realize that it’s value they are going to get, like they can have access to their data, they can view historical records.
They are only interacting with your app because it looks useful to them, so what’s the best way to get them to do something? Provide more value…
Give an alternative
It happens that the user is not feeling like signing up. Give an alternative and don’t force them onto a single path. You can suggest the better solution with smart copy. Make them realize if they don’t sign up they are going to lose the work they did, and people never want to feel like they can lose things.
Because everybody does something in a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it is the right way. If you put people first and ask them for signing up at the right time, they will gladly do it.
Image Credit: Nikita Tcherednikov, Chameleon Design, alvarobueno, Ricardo Ruiz from The Noun Project.
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