Friday, August 05, 2011


"Oh look! I had to REGISTER to make that comment. Nice one! Only took me 3 tries after forgetting to tick a box and then having to check my email to activate. Ironic, no?"

Pay to browse?
Cracked has yet another great (if needlessly profane and crude) article up, this one about stupid stuff people put on websites. Its longer than most of their lists, because there's so much that's wrong at so many web pages. But one of them that is perhaps the most annoying is the required registration.

I get it sometimes when you need to register. If I'm going to make an account at a site like Ebay, fine, registration makes sense and is actually good for me. But some of these sites just don't need this information and its very annoying. John Cheese writes:
Spend a week apartment shopping online and see how many of them don't require it. Many make you sign up before you can even see the listings.

Wait. I have to pay for the right to shop? I'm the @$(*ing customer! I'm walking in the door with money to spend on a new apartment, and you're going to throw up a barrier to stop me? Don't these places make their money off charging the landlords to list with them? You know, the way advertising has worked since the dawn of civilization? Try to imagine a car dealership putting up a big wall around the lot, with a sign saying browsing their inventory costs 30 *#$%ing dollars. You'd laugh your ass off.
He points out several absurd places where registration and even pay is required, then notes a couple of articles which everyone who owns a business with an online site need to look at.

The first is from Econsultancy which examines the registration window at websites:
The unnamed site in question had previously added a form asking for shoppers' email address and password between the shopping basket and the checkout page, asking for previous users to enter their details from the last time and for new users to register.

This was enough to put off plenty of first-time shoppers who didn't see why they should have to register first, while plenty of existing customers couldn't remember details and were forced to go through the process of getting a password reminder or setting up a new account. Interestingly, it turned out that 45% of customers had multiple registrations on the site.
They ditched the registration window, and instead just had people fill out their information when they checked out for the shipping. What did they see? A 45% increase in business, which translated to $300,000,000 that year alone.

I understand why businesses want you to register. It makes sense in some ways for them. It allows them to track your purchases so they can suggest other things you might like. It lets them build demographic profiles for later business and advertising. It even gives them email addresses they can sell to spam lists, which is why I have a junk email address I use for registrations.

And from a shopper's perspective it seems to make sense: once I'm registered into the system all I have to do is log in and I don't have to retype all that information when I make an order. Except... it turns out that most people don't mind doing that since they don't actually buy all that much online, and when they do it tends to be all at once. People don't like registering any more than they like giving the last 4 digits of their phone number to a clerk at a store.

People take privacy very seriously, and in this age of identity theft and hacking, people are even more paranoid about their privacy. Asking for more information does not sit well with folks. User Interface Engineering did a study on registrations at websites and found out that basic fact:
We conducted usability tests with people who needed to buy products from the site. We asked them to bring their shopping lists and we gave them the money to make the purchases. All they needed to do was complete the purchase.

We were wrong about the first-time shoppers. They did mind registering. They resented having to register when they encountered the page. As one shopper told us, "I'm not here to enter into a relationship. I just want to buy something."

Some first-time shoppers couldn't remember if it was their first time, becoming frustrated as each common email and password combination failed. We were surprised how much they resisted registering.
It wasn't just first-time shoppers at a site, either.
Except for a very few who remembered their login information, most stumbled on the form. They couldn't remember the email address or password they used. Remembering which email address they registered with was problematic - many had multiple email addresses or had changed them over the years.

When a shopper couldn't remember the email address and password, they'd attempt at guessing what it could be multiple times. These guesses rarely succeeded. Some would eventually ask the site to send the password to their email address, which is a problem if you can't remember which email address you initially registered with.
We also analyzed how many people requested passwords, to find out it reached about 160,000 per day. 75% of these people never tried to complete the purchase once requested.
I have an account with City of Heroes. Not so long ago I got an invite to play for a week for free, and had some money coming in so I thought "well heck I'll give it a shot, I liked that game, maybe I'll fire it up again." But I couldn't remember my login and password exactly. I tried all week to get them to help me restore my account, and eventually they just stopped responding. I guess they just didn't really like my business all that much.

Logging in with a password makes sense in some places on the internet; email for example, or a game you're paying regularly for. When people go shopping, however, what they want to do is shop, not create an account and mess around with logging in. Don't do it. And when you do have a site that needs registration, try really hard to work with people who need help getting their information back. Really, really hard. Because even if its not the same person, its still a paying customer, for crying out loud. If someone hasn't used that account for 3 years exactly how likely do you find it that someone would try to steal it anyway?

cutsieOh and if you have a restaurant take a very close look at their complaints about restaurant sites. They're exactly the same things that enrage everyone and nobody likes them. As John Cheese writes:
Businesses can't seem to figure out that we didn't pass their website on the sidewalk. We got there by typing in the name of the restaurant (or store, or whatever) into the browser because we want to know when they close, or how to get there, or how expensive they are. We do not need to be sold on the concept of food and friends and atmosphere.
Just give us the menu, the directions to get there, and basic information. Chances are when we're looking at your site, we're hungry and almost out the door. We don't want to wait 5 minutes for your site to load, to download a pdf of your menu, and page through all the pictures of couples feeding each other.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You pretty much said what i could not effectively communicate. +1

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