The Problem with the Internet (Part 3)

This post is aimed specifically at something everyone hates: Registration Screens. 

Registration screens are a dirty and unnecessary blight on the Internet.  When was the last time you got to a form full on fields with red asterisks insisting on completing data and thought “Oh good, someone else gets all my contact details”.  You could argue that this is a necessary tool to allow for a first point of contact with a potential customer.  I would argue that, like an over-bearing shop assistant you are “moving too fast” on a potential customer and that this will likely scare them off. 

Think about how you feel next time you are asked for contact details prior to downloading trial software.  Do you even know enough about the producer of the software to trust their “We respect your privacy” statement?  Even if you can trust in their intent  to respect your privacy, do you trust in their ability  to provide a secure enough environment for your personal information?  It’s better that they (the web-site owners) trusts in the value that their software provides.  To provide a “catch free” sample of their wares instills me with the confidence that their software is worth my attention.  Trust me: I will buy it, if it does what I want for a fair price

There seems to be a lot of attention on the Daily WTF spent on data-validation forms that won’t accept valid data.  Generally, someone has attempted to make them more unaccepting of invalid input and somehow has overstepped the mark.  This, whilst annoying, is merely short-sightedness on the person who designed or implemented the data validation routines.  Stop right there! Take a step back and look at the problem again: The fact that there is an extensive effort spent on data validation is short-sightedness in the first place.  So, okay, you don’t want to waste space in a database for people who’s names are “aaa” with and e-mail address of “”.  But why are people providing you with this sort of input in the first place?  Here’s a suggestion: Maybe, you are yet to earn people’s personal information.  Let me put that another way: If you want someone’s contact details, it is going to cost you something.   So, here is a tip to save yourself the problem of needing to weed out invalid/meaningless data:

Don’t ask for the data in the first place! 

As I said, you don’t want to waste space in the database with invalid input.  But data validation becomes easier if people want to provide you with valid information.  Giving customers a good product or service and you will be buying enough good-will for them to give you their contact information.  I’m not idealistic enough to assume that everyone who likes your product will pay for it.  Life is just not fair in that regard.  But, the people who want your software but don’t want to pay for it, won’t pay for it no matter what you do.  Complex up-front registration screens only serve to limit your product reach.  Don’t do it!