5 UX Tips for Designing More Usable Registration Forms

The web is crowded with UI solutions that we’ve inherited from the past, but are still applied because “everybody else does.” It is time to reconsider all of them, but especially registration forms. When designing registration forms, keep in mind that they are for the user and the smoother the registration process, the more delighted your customers will be.

Here are some tips to make the most of registration forms.

Don’t make the user fill in the same field twice

Almost everyone has gone through this – a registration form that requires you to type an email or password twice. Historically, this was designed to prevent mistyping errors. Have you ever typed your email or password wrong during registration process? Have you ever NOT copy-pasted the necessary field whenever the webpage allowed?

Well, even if there is a typo in the registration form the user can still recover using email. The user may spend extra time recovering his or her account, but it’s definitely not a big deal as opposed to the time we will save for hundreds of users who fill in the form correctly.

Here are a few forms that that are spot-on.

Twitter

Roon

Linkedin

Highlight required fields

From a user experience perspective, it is better to have no optional fields, assuming that if a piece of information is not required there’s no point in wasting a user’s time. But for many companies marketing and acquiring customer data is crucial for business success.

If there are optional fields in a registration form, make sure to clearly highlight required fields. Usually a small mark like an asterisk (*) is enough. It can be frustrating for users to find out that they have not filled in a required field after submission.

Look at how these websites solve this problem.

Yahoo

bitbucket

Don’t make users confirm via email before using the service

In order to start using most digital products and services we are often required to confirm an account via link sent by email. Why? How does my email contribute to delivering the service? These are questions that may not enter the minds of users, but they should bother YOU as a UX designer.

Why not let the user look around the site upon registration? If some features really need to use email, disable those and design a simple reminder for the user to confirm an email address later. It is better to deliver a limited working service immediately than nothing at all. This will help create a good first impression.

By requiring email confirmation, you are forcing a new user to leave your website, which may cause some traffic loss.

Keep users signed in when they register

Another common issue with registration UX is requiring users to sign in immediately after registration. The same problem occurs with many email confirmation links.

Is this for security purposes? Users commonly write down passwords only to forget them later and recover by email. In many instances, this extra step only frustrates the user.

Design the UX so that new users stay signed in immediately after registration, making the overall user experience smoother.

Nothing personal, but this is what you want to avoid.

lastfm

Dropbox does a great job with its registration process. After creating an account, you are redirected to Dropbox’s installation assistant.

Dropbox

Provide guidance, but don’t push

“For security reasons your password must be longer than 8 and shorter than 12 characters, contain at least one capital letter, a number and a symbol.”  This is a typical password requirement, but the length of the password doesn’t guarantee security. A five symbol password can be as strong as A#c2d, while an eight symbol one can be as simple as just a “password.” Demanding users to consider all of the field requirements and think of a new and memorable password isn’t how a host would welcome a guest, right?

Show users the proper input format to save time and reduce guesswork.

Go the extra step by providing more user-friendly and descriptive error messages as well. Notifications like “You must fill out all of the required fields” are not helpful when users don’t know exactly which field was incorrect.

A great solution for this problem is real-time data validation. This alerts users to mistakes right away and if performed on the client-side can even reduce the amount of work for your servers.

Google does a great job of this when adding a credit card to Google Wallet, as does Skype.

Google Wallet

Skype

I am proactive and enthusiastic UX geek from Armenia with a keen eye for detail, big passion for sleek and usable digital products and an irresistible urge to improve, rather than get used to things that are not in place. You can always be in touch with me @armen_ghazaryan and Google+.

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18 Comments
  1. Andrea Jan 24, 1:32 pm

    Indeed, registration forms can either boost or dump your website conversion. Very good points, need to consider them for my online shop.
    Cheers!

    Reply
    +11
  2. Ani Jan 24, 2:03 pm

    Absolutely essential and useful tips. Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
    +7
  3. Andy Jan 24, 7:50 pm

    Awesome article & great points & tips. Thanks.

    FYI under “Keep users signed in when they register” you may want to fix the typo in the graphic to “Sing In” As much as it humors me to picture someone singing out loud their username and password to sign in, I figured I’d point out the typo for you :)

    Reply
    +7
  4. brian Jan 24, 9:56 pm

    If you skip the step where you need to go to your email to verify a service, all you need is to know someone’s email address to sign them up. This can lead to people signing up others as pranks or spam. You can really easily overwhelm someone with real emails that are spam to them by signing them up for a few services. If you have to verify bu email, than someone needs your password to pull this off. From an initial UX standpoint, your right, but for potential of problems your not.

    Reply
    +31
  5. Cosmin Negoita Jan 24, 10:47 pm

    Totally wrong about the duplicated fields. Emails and passwords are purely essential credentials for user accounts. The user needs to make sure he typed the right info from the start.

    1. Type that email wrong. You’re out. Need to go back and create another account.

    2. Type your password wrong. Good, you can recover it. I want to know how could it take less time to hit that recover link, go to your mail, hit that reset link, type another password, rather than typing a pass twice. Oh, by the way, what if you type your password wrong again? Feels like a 3-lap race.

    Reply
    +12
    • Jonathan Jan 25, 6:06 am

      I prefer typing just once, but if password i prefer that they have the option to show/hide my password. typing in a password just once and then don’t have that option to see what you typed is i think what’s wrong and would lead to many mistakes. for email, well. i always look at where i type so if i made a mistake i can spot it right away.

      Reply
      +4
      • Dennis Jan 27, 10:18 pm

        As a UX designer you shouldn’t care about what YOU do or YOU prefer, it’s all about what the USERS want and what’s best for them, not for you.

        As mobile traffic keeps on boosting, I do think typing your password twice is more important than ever before. Who can type a 10-letterword (let’s assume that as a safe password) let’s say 5 times in a row without any error on a mobile device? Yep, exactly, almost nobody. Of course you and I can, but we’re not the regular user.

        Not having to log in again after you signed up and not having to type your e-mail twice is the worst combination ever. What if you’ve typed your e-mail wrong, have set-up everything, even started using the product, and then want to log in again after a few days? Oh boy, that would kill your product.

        Reply
        +5
  6. Jim Brow Jan 25, 6:15 am

    Over all pretty solid points I think. However the comments so far have made some valid criticisms as well. There’s a few considerations I’d like to offer in response to/with them.

    @Brian You have a very valid point. However, reading the article over again I believe the main point to be made was that the email authentication should not be required to begin using the account that has been registered as it forces a user to stop their interaction with the site in order to validate. But I definitely agree with you that validation is a useful tool to ensure bogus emails aren’t being rammed down some poor sod’s throat.

    @Cosmin I agree with you for the most part. However at least as far as the email field goes, it’s not hidden, so there’s really no reason to double up on it. The user is responsible for entering their login credentials, and it literally takes less than a second to read the entered address (unless the user has an asinine email address thats 20+chars long) and verify it’s correct.

    However since the password field is almost always ******’d out I say you’re right, that doubling up on the field is a solid practice EXCEPT when your verification process is set up to email a user their login info.

    Of course one still could make the argument that if the email isn’t right then the point is moot, but at that junction it’s really the user who can’t be arsed to double check their typing that is affected rather than the tens/hundreds/thousands of users who can and do.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s a balance between hand holding a user who needs it, and coddling/annoying a user who doesn’t. As with many UX decisions one way or the other isn’t always going to be the right fit for every job. (IE doubling up email for a mom and pop shop site vs. doubling up for a government office site.)

    In my opinion anyway.

    Reply
    0
  7. z Jan 25, 4:26 pm

    It is not a good experience to recover passwords every time. Though almost every website I have ever registered requires me to confirm my password, I’ve forgotten passwords to quite a few of them and would have to recover using my email address.

    Reply
    +3
  8. Ruta | SilkCollar Jan 26, 4:08 pm

    Wonder if anyone else noticed that “Sing in” under Keep users signed in when they register?

    Reply
    +9
    • Tom Gimer Jan 27, 9:02 am

      How about “userame” in same graphic

      Reply
      +3
    • Ed Jan 28, 5:24 am

      “Sing in”, “Userame” (several times), and “Dat of birth”. I guess they’re only mockups, but…

      Reply
      +3
  9. Olga Jan 27, 9:47 am

    Agree with everything except for not requiring email authentication. It’s not just about spam, it’s about email marketing you probably want to do. Email marketing services do not like emails that are not confirmed by users. That’s poor sending reputation straight away. If a user registers on your site, he assumes there will be email authentication, it’s nothing unusual. But once you let him use your service, there’s no motivation to confirm that double opt in link later. It’s a fact. So unless clean email database is not important to you, then go ahead, follow this tip.

    Reply
    +3
  10. Dan M Jan 27, 10:51 pm

    Not sure I agree with the email confirmation points. Usually these are to do with compliance issues which must be adhered to particularly if personal information is being sent to the user I.e. email me my results etc

    Reply
    +1
  11. Greg Jan 28, 7:40 pm

    Interesting article. Regarding highlighting required fields: I wonder if it is best to leave out anything that isn’t required? If it isn’t required, is it necessary?

    Reply
    +3
  12. DJ Jan 31, 1:54 am

    Armen’s “keen eye for detail” evidently doesn’t include spelling.

    Reply
    0
  13. Collin Feb 6, 11:09 am

    How do people feel about the approach on http://inside.co ?

    They skip the registration process altogether — you enter your email, you click the link in your email, and you are signed-in indefinitely. Switched computers? Send a new link, click it, and you’re in.

    I was really put off at first but I’m starting to think that it’s genius. Email is pervasive across all of our devices, and it’s the backbone of most security strategies anyway.

    It also makes it impossible to create an account with the wrong email (you won’t get the link) or the wrong password (there are no passwords).

    Reply
    +3
  14. Tom Feb 10, 8:24 pm

    The title of this post should be “5 UX Tips for Designing More Usable Registration Forms, if you don’t care about security, validation nightmares, or the content on your site is so pithy that none of these things really matter”.

    I am not trolling but as other users have already pointed out, confirming a password is a simple way to ensure the user doesn’t mistype. With so many forms to fill out these days it is very easy to mistype a password which would then trigger the password reset process that is certainly more annoying to the user than had they just confirmed their password in the first place.

    Not requiring an email confirmation before logging in to a site is just plain stupid. You are asking for trouble doing this. The only case I could see this being useful is if the content behind your registration area is so meaningless that you don’t care that someone hijacks your legit users email accounts.

    There are many useful techniques the author lays out in this article. However, I would be very cautious about sacrificing security for ease of use. It’s a balancing act for sure but always tip to the security side.

    Reply
    +1

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