Registration kills conversion

Why is registration such a bad idea?

1. Are you registered or aren’t you?

On a website that has registration, the order process usually starts by asking you whether you’re registered or not. Trouble is, people often simply don’t remember.

You can improve that page by wording it a bit more friendly (‘Returning customer / First-time buyer’ sounds slightly more human than ‘Registered / Not registered’).

Layout-wise you can also make it easier on the user. By putting the options close together, like Amazon does.

But it’s still an extra page that can create doubt and confusion. A barrier to completing the purchase.

2. Getting registered is a hassle

Getting registered or signing up is an extra step that consists of at least one extra field. Again, you can improve the wording and layout of your form to make it easier on users. But it’s still an extra step.

If you really want to mess with a user’s head, make him choose a user name that can’t be his email address. Laughs all around.

3. What about optional registration?

In some online shops, like Esprit, registration is optional. Slightly better than compulsory registration but you’re still stuck with the whole are you or aren’t you a already a customer question.

Apparently, you can also log in as a registered user at Booking.com. But it’s very unobtrusive. Booking.com doesn’t ask you to register while you’re booking. They just let you get on with it. You can register after you’ve completed booking your room.

It would be interesting to know the percentage of Booking.com customers who register. And how many of those actually log in when they come back.

4. Remembering user names and passwords

We’ve all been there. Am I a customer here or aren’t I? Which email address did I use to sign up? And which password did I pick, or worse, get assigned by the website? What the heck, I’ll just say I’m a new customer. Oh no, now they’re saying my email address belongs to a registered customer. Damn…

If anything, it’s a great way to drive customers to the competition.

You’re probably annoyed when other websites unnecessarily ask you to register or sign up. So why wouldn’t that be annoying on your site?

Why is registration bad for your business?

  • Less people actually buy
    Because registration is such a hassle, less people actually complete their purchase.
    Don’t believe us? Read how leaving out registration made this website 300 million dollar extra per year or how it caused an 8,5% rise in online bookings on TUIfly.com (German).
  • More support needed
    One of the top questions for the helpdesk of corporate websites where you need to register: I forgot my password.
    In online shops too, there’s a lot of time being wasted resetting user names and sending out forgotten passwords.
    Sure, you can automate and improve all that. But why would wou improve something if it’s easier for everyone if you just leave it out?
  • Dirty data
    80% of surfers have more than 1 email address. There’s loads of dirty data in your database anyway. Lots of people will just use their other email address instead of going to the trouble of resetting their password.

What’s the alternative?

This will come as an absolute shock to you. Wait for it. The answer is: no registration.

If Booking.com sells more than 150.000 hotel stays a day without registration, not making people register doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Phony justifications of registration

Despite the barrier registration creates for users and the convincing case studies in favor of axing it, there are always people in IT or marketing who claim they ‘need’ customers to register.

They’re lying.

  • “Without registration, a customer can’t follow up on his order”
    Sure he can: provide the user with a purchase code on the confirmation page and in the confirmation email you send him, together with a direct url and a customer service phone number.
    Ryanair does that. And I’ve heard they sell quite a bit online.
    In 1 year, Booking.com managed to get 6 million hotel reviews from people who’ve booked with them. Not by making people register. Just by sending them an email with a direct link after their stay.
  • “Without registration, repeat customers have to fill out everything all over again”
    If you say it like that, that probably means you’re asking way too much from customers.
    And how many of your customers come back on a regular basis? Because it’s only for them that registration has a small benefit. For all other users, it’s a barrier.
  • “Without registration, we can’t track users’ purchasing behaviour”
    Sure you can. Based on their email address (possibly in combination with their offline address) you can track people’s purchasing history. There’s no need for them to register.
    No wait, you’re right. If someone changes email addresses or moves house, you’re probably going to miss some purchasing history. But does that really outweigh the revenue you’re missing out on? Be honest, how often do you use that purchasing history anyway?
  • “Without registration, customers will end up in our database twice”
    Registration won’t fix that. And Santa Claus isn’t real either. Grow up.

Is registration always a bad idea?

No, it’s not. For websites that focus purely on online services like online training sites or communites like Facebook a username and password are obviously necessary.

But please, use the email address as the username and don’t get too fussy about password restrictions.

What do you think?

Are we right? Can you think of any benefits to registration that outweigh the negatives? We’d love to hear from you.


Read more articles about , , Usability.

Want to stay informed about new articles?
Subscribe to our RSS feed or our newsletter.


  • Racha

    Spot On!

  • http://www.agconsult.be Els Aerts

    Thanks, Racha. :-)

  • http://www.tiagoaraujo.com Tiago Araujo

    Nice post! Wondering if the registering process increase people’s perception of safety when purchasing online…

  • http://webusability-blog.com Els Aerts

    @Tiago: Since registration actually decreases sales, I would argue that it doesn’t…

  • http://www.uxd.cz Jan Stawarczyk

    I agree!
    Forced registration is mostly blocker for me to complete purchase in first time visited e-shop. But I like the option to receive news/promotions somehow in shops I like. But this could be done by gathering newsletters emails not registration to complete purchase.

  • http://www.wouterbertels.be Wouter Bertels

    I agree that there is a need to simplify the online experience when it comes to registration. However, there are other ways of eliminating the need for multiple usernames across different websites. Personally I really like OpenID.

  • http://rabbitweb.com.au John @ Cairns Web

    I haven’t scientificly tested this, but one case where registration may be better for conversions is if you are following up correctly, or using email marketing. IMO in marketing it is far better to have fewer targeted clients than a whole bunch of people who aren’t really those for whom your product is suited for. Registration is a filter for weeding out those people.

    It does of course depend on the product, service and demographics you are serving.

  • Pingback: Gib dem Esel die Karotte: Usability Review von experteer.at | Simplease Blog

  • Joe Day

    Email as an ID is great for sites where the user’s data isn’t published. But if I’m posting a review or comment or something, then I want a nickname. Perhaps… that’s the time to ask for the nickname, when it’s actually needed.

  • http://webusability-blog.com Els Aerts

    @John: you don’t need registration to follow up correctly. All you need to do that is an email address…