The Debate Over Mandatory Registration

February 12th, 2008 | Categories: design, launch, marketing, strategy, trends

Some companies force potential users to sign up for an account before using the service, i.e. mandatory registration. Others immerse the user in the experience immediately. Obviously there are pros and cons to both approaches, but I would prefer the latter.

Obligating a new user (better yet, a first-time visitor) to register for a service they knowContracts little or nothing about is a big leap of faith. Many are unwilling to provide personal information simply to gain access to a service they aren’t certain they will ever use again. Such a structure acts like a barrier to entry.

In addition, a negative byproduct of the aforementioned approach is inactive accounts. Many who simply register to try the service will ultimately end up dropping their account after their first (and only) experience, skewing user data and statistics.

From an opposing point-of-view, it is clear why any company would want as much information from a user as possible. For this reason, I don’t think it is necessary to expand on this point.

Perhaps the perfect solution is a “tiered” registration system. For example, anyone can browse Digg and discover news stories without signing up for an account. But in order to submit a story, an account is needed. Such a system removes the initial registration disparity. Once the service is confirmed as being valuable by the new user, additional functionality may be sought. At this point, it is fair to impose a sign-up process. is also a very good example of this situation.

Removing as many initial obstacles as possible expedites the learning process and maximizes the experience. This translates to a more desirable first impression, a more credible service, and (hopefully) an increased user base.

What do you think? Should registration be required before a user can try a given service?


  1. Tomaahwk Says:

    No. I really hate it when companies do this. When companies do this, many times you have to give them your email, and then next thing you know you get spammed by them every so often. I either avoid these type sites all together, and find alternatives that don’t do this, or I register with them an account that is completely fake that includes an email address that is not mine (sorry [email protected] you’ve probably received a lot of spam due to me). I really don’t understand the need for this. There is plenty of website monitoring tools such Google analytics or CrazyEgg that the web developers can use to track the usage of there sites, and as long as the viewer doesn’t plan to contribute to the website in some form , there should be no reason for a registration. There is one site that I go to quite often that does this, and I really can’t to figure out why. Luckily the internet archive and Google cache this website quite often, so I can just look at the cached version, to find what I am looking for without having to register.

  2. Els Says:

    I think it depends on the type of service they’re offering. In general I hate it when I have to sign up, and I either move on, or like Tomahawk, I just give fake info. (although I don’t use poor Bob’s address, but simply ;-)).

    Sometimes I think a registration is warranted though. As an example, I use Joomla CMS quite a lot and for some of the 3rd party components one needs to register at their site in order to download the component. That, I don’t mind, as in return it gives them an option to contact me when a security release is out, so I can decide to upgrade. So far none of those have spammed me with useless information.

  3. Rian Says:

    I agree with you Aidan, I think you should let people use see as much of what you have to offer as possible without makeing them commit to giving out their personal info.

    When you ask for information, it shouldn’t be to give the user the right to “demo” your product. It should be because the user already knows what you’ve got and just wants to be able to use it. For example, Digg lets you get all they way up to typing a comment without signing up, but wont let you post the comment until you’ve confirmed your email address. I know the reason I need to give that information, and I want to use the feature, so I’m happy to complete the process.

    I don’t think the argument for mandatory registration in order to collect more user data is a strong one. Would Digg or have more user data today if they asked their initial users for their email addresses just so you could see what’s inside? I doubt it, because no one would have ever looked inside.

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