Flip the sign up

Written on 8 January, 2012

I was musing about website sign up forms earlier this morning. One thing became clear - there's a relentless consistency with how we go about creating them.

Generic sign ups

See the examples above. You'll likely recognise most of them, as they're all big players on the web. Because of this, I'm not going to point the finger and say they're doing it wrong. They'll be getting thousands of user registrations per day. The numbers will say they're doing everything right.

Each example is based on the traditional sign up process. Name, email, password, throw in a slight modification or additional field, then boom - submit.

But not every sign up form has to start like this.

Sure, if there's barely any profile concept to come after registration, and an email/password combo is essentially all that's needed, then it's probably nonsensical to move away from the classic approach.

However, if you're delving into the areas of social networks and public accounts, where you'll likely want your users to enter a whole lot of profile information eventually, then maybe experiment with flipping the sign up.

Why should every sign up process begin with name > email > password?

Try beginning with a different field completely. For example, you could ask for the user's interests, their area of work, or their blog. You could even get them to search for friends first. The simple act of having one field and asking one question, then forwarding to a 'stage 2' traditional sign up form offers some variety.

You don't even need to begin with fields and text inputs. The recently launched Treehouse membership beautifully attracts readers with a simple question, “What do you want to learn today?”, and then encourages them to start the sign up journey by clicking on an area of web work.

This isn't adding difference to sign ups for the sake of being different. When it's suitable, I'd say flipping the sign up brings two key advantages…

1. Entice the reader to sign up

Although we're all used to them, name/email/password fields are boring. In order to try and make them a little more interesting, we generally fill our homepage or sign up page with details on the service/website and some fancy imagery as a 'build up' to the sign up form.

Why not share details about the website by including more interesting and relevant areas of the profile data in the sign up process?

You can't lie with a form. The information you're asking for is going to be directly relevant with the website. A quirky and interesting form and users will be quick to fill it in. See my quick example below.

Sign up comparison

Which would you rather fill in?

2. Reduce the wasteland effect

Alright, if you see high registration figures as ultimate success, then you probably won't view this as an advantage.

But by asking for 'different from the norm' information, and probably a bit more of it in your sign up process, you'll be gaining users with a much bulkier and interesting profile. You'll also gain more genuine users, who have an honest interest in your website. As I mentioned previously, a form truly can represent what your website is all about, thus meaning the user can easily judge if they wish to sign up by the data they are asked to enter.

Less sign ups - yes. But more genuine ones.

High registration rates aren't everything, just look at Google+ and the vast wasteland of empty profile pages.

Try flipping the sign up

There's nothing wrong with traditional sign up form methods, but it's not the only option available. Try thinking outside the box. If you think flipping the process a little could work, give it a go.

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