Mandatory Sign-Ups and Lost Customers in Web Design

Last week I went to a midnight showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on opening night, here in Jacksonville. Since these kind of things tend to sell out, I bought my ticket ahead of time on Fandango. One thing on Fandango’s site that really impressed me was this little gem at the end of the ticket order form.

I was really impressed with how user-friendly the web design was: I could go through the entire process of buying a ticket without even bothering to think about whether I needed an account on the site or not.

As a user, there are few things that annoy me more than mandatory sign-ups for websites that add little to no value to the user’s experience. When newspapers first started building their web presence, web designers included a mandatory sign-up between the list of article titles and the article’s actual content. Most newspapers learned very quickly that putting up walls like this tends to drive users away and got rid of the unnecessary sign-ups. Still, every once in a while I’ll stumble upon a site that uses this same failing web design tactic, and I always feel like I’m getting the short end of the stick.

When trying to decide if your website needs to put some page behind a sign-in, ask yourself a few questions: Is there some kind of privileged or paid-member-only content on this page? Are there user-specific settings that might make this page look different depending on who the user is? Without added value that is apparent to the user, hiding pages behind login forms only serves to push users away from your site and towards your competitors’. Drawing users to your website is hard enough; don’t you want them to stick around once they get there? Web design includes thinking about these processes on your website.