I’m a big advocate of lazy registration. Lazy registration is the concept that you don’t have a sign up form on your site but instead let the user try out your site for as long as they like and ask them for user data as part of their natural trajectory. This results in an experience full of open inviting doors. The key is providing users with a reason to give you the registration data you’re looking for. If you’re site is good enough to do that (and if it's, than that's a bad sign), you’re golden.
How to make this pattern work:
Let the user enter as much data as they want wherever they want to do it. Then, to let them save their data, choose from one or more of these solutions:
- Provide a Save or Submit button that on click asks them for their email address to register
- Provide a link that they can save on their own to get back to their data
- Save their data automatically via cookies so that when they revisit your site, the data is still there
Picamatic, an image hosting service, is a fantastic example of lazy registration. A user can upload their images and can then either copy and paste a link to that image on their own:
Or click Save these images to get emailed a link to the images:
Asking after data entry
Another good example is the way that commenting works in blogs. It’s only when you enter a comment that you are asked for your email address to register. Similarly, on sites like Stackoverflow, when you ask a question, then you are asked to enter in your email address at the bottom of your post:
On GetSatisfaction, when you’re done entering in your question, you get a pop-up after you hit submit that asks you to register:
Cookies are another key to lazy registration. See how much info you can keep for the user when they come back to your site. If you’re an e-commerce site you should be saving anything the user adds to their shopping cart. You can also save items they visited, searches they did, etc. Kayak is a great example which retains searches you’ve made and saves them to your account when you do register. Now go out there and rid your site of those registration black holes.