Signups that don’t suck

I loved the title of a recent This is going to be BIG blog post: I’m not smarter than you… I’ve just downloaded more crap and given my universal username and password to more websites than you. I do like to think of myself as smarter than the average bear, but I could say pretty much the same thing. I don’t sign up for every web app out there, just the ones I think might prove to be useful. (Yes, I unapologetically think twitter is useful.)

Thing is, too many site owners don’t think hard enough about the newbies when it comes to the signup process. That’s how you wind up with the godawful clunkiness of flickr. So in self-defense and in the general interest of making things suck less, I wanted to share what I think were good signup experiences.


Twitter comes to mind because it’s what I signed up for most recently, but I do think they’ve done a great job keeping the signup simple and clear. It works with your cellphone, on the web, and IM — plus you can customize your home page on the service, and use one of a dozen third-party widgets, so it easily could have been a nightmare process.

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It’s easy to understand every item requested, and how each will be used. Other than minimal required fields, you’ve got one choice, really: appear in the public timeline or not. The account settings screen is just as clear:

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See those links across the top? They’ve chunked the options into intelligent groups to keep each page clean and short.

There was once a time when apparently relished inscrutable interfaces, but that has changed:

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You really only need a username, password, and email address to get going, but see how they’ve given you a reminder why you are doing this right there on the screen, in the little gray box? Even better, they clearly indicate next steps after signup: installing buttons, and learning how to use them.


This identity management service has a very simple signup:

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I like how they clearly explain what to expect, what will happen, and the most salient points (your URL and the potential effect of your choice on search engines) without overloading the user.

So if you have a signup process, here’s how not to suck:

  • Be simple and clear. Bells and whistles don’t belong on a signup screen.
  • Minimize choice. Divide signups (which need to happen quickly) and settings (those can be manageably tweaked later)
  • Make it obvious to the user why you need the info you are asking for
  • Make it obvious how the information input will be used
  • Get bonus points for directing newbies to what’s next