Seven Steps to Simplify Sign-Up

Earlier in the year, Google released this video showing how cumbersome internet shopping can really be. It brought home in a humorous way how webmasters can enforce counterintuitive rules we’d never expect people to follow in a bricks-and-mortar store.

Your sign-up process is probably putting customers off.

And if you think this isn’t true, you’re probably just in denial about it.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer

Ask for too much information upfront and your visitors will pass on your website this time round. They may never come back. “Oh, it’s THAT site. The one with the laborious sign-up process.”

By simplifying the process you could double the number of people who complete it.

Your sign-up and log-in forms shouldn’t make the user’s life difficult. Here are some tips for shortening sign-up so you can convert those visitors into sales.

1. Ask for what you need – nothing more

Since over-complicated or lengthy forms are clearly a major turn-off for online shoppers, you must ensure you ask for only essential information on sign-up:

You need their email address – but is their phone number really necessary? If not, cut the fields. All you’re doing is making your form longer and more complex than it needs to be – giving your prospective customers more opportunities to leave. Now is not the time to conduct a lengthy market research campaign.

If you have optional fields, clearly flag the mandatory ones. My preference would be to ditch optional fields altogether.

2. Let them sign in as guests
Enforced sign-up is the top gripe for 38% of those who shop online. Give them the best of both worlds. Collect the data you want from those that can be bothered, and still clinch sales from more time-strapped consumers. Offer guest checkout!

You can take this one step further by prompting users to register after they’ve bought. Use the bare-bones information they provided in the guest checkout to populate some fields, and ask them if they’ve time to provide the rest. Now they’ve bought from you a relationship is forming, and they’ll actually be more likely to oblige this time round.

3. Allow email usernames

How many different usernames do you have for ecommerce website accounts? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have countless usernames across countless sites, which you will forget. Now, how many different email addresses do you use? Probably just one.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if people only needed to remember one unique username, which they could use on every ecommerce site with impunity? Wouldn’t that speed up the checkout process?

You can see where I’m heading here. Everyone has an email address. It’s exclusive to them. It’s memorable, and it eliminates the need for a “USERNAME TAKEN” message which only makes your customers click away. So let your customers use it!

4. Give customers a reason to sign up

Nobody likes creating account after account, so give your visitors a reason to sign up. How can they benefit? You might include a tantalising introductory offer, or free trial. Return customers are invaluable. Relationships are based on transactions. Don’t make it a one-way street. Offer them something first and be proactive in establishing that relationship from the get-go.

5. Consider your CAPTCHAs

Asking someone to prove they’re human is sure to prompt sign-up abandonment.

From the perspective of a web developer it can seem like a great solution to prevent spam. However, for the average internet user, they can be difficult to decipher and a general pain in the neck! You need to ask yourself if CAPTCHAs are really necessary. If you absolutely do need one, it needs to be readable. Given a choice between an uncrackable CAPTCHA and a more user-friendly one, I’d always err on the side of usability.

6. Don’t clear data when there’s an error

If your visitor submits a form incorrectly, don’t make them retype the entire thing again! Nothing will make them leave your site faster than having to sit through that laborious task all over again.

7. And finally…

Remember the video we showed you at the start. Take the time to go through your website’s checkout process and ask yourself if it’s intuitive, fast and simple. And be critical. In ecommerce, every little advantage helps. A “this will do” attitude isn’t just throwing money away – it’s sending it into the arms of your more clued-up competitors!

In my next blog post we’ll take a look at some common website mistakes even after your customer has made their first purchase…