Back when I was first introduced to the Internet, the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe was making the rounds. For those of you who never encountered this urban legend, it centered on a customer’s outrage for being charged $250 for a cookie recipe when she thought the waiter meant “$2.50.” Horrified at the cost, the customer allegedly swore to get back at the store and circulated the recipe through the Web. I’ve made the cookies, they’re really very good.
I was reminded of this story over the last few weeks, when a number of clients have required site registration for all or part of their Web sites. (We’re not talking about registering for eCommerce applications here – generally our clients wanted to fence off a piece of static content, such as a white paper.) There are some excellent reasons why you might want to do this – and just as many not.
Let’s deal with the con’s first:
· Nothing stops someone faster than having to volunteer personal information online. You can bid farewell to many of your users at this screen.
· A registration screen can interrupt someone’s concentration on your services or products – especially if it takes too long to fill out.
· Certain people enjoy creating bogus personalities when they fill out these forms – considerably diluting the value of the data you hope to collect. After all, Mickey Mouse really isn’t interested in your giving him a follow up call…
· People who filled out the form will be disappointed if the restricted content is no more valuable than content availble for free elsewhere. This is particularly true if the content is no better than unrestricted content on the same site.
· Parents and educators can become very angry when you ask their kids to fill out these forms.
· Like the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe, there’s generally nothing to stop people from forwarding on the information once they’ve registered.
But does all this mean site registration is a bad idea? Not necessarily. Here are some of the reasons it can be valuable:
· If a teaser for the content is intriguing enough, it might increase interest in what is behind the gateway.
· You will discourage the “lookey-loos” – people who really weren’t serious about your products or services in the first place.
· You might discourage your competition from gaining access to your proprietary content (though not if they’re determined to find a way through the registration process).
· If the information they receive truly is worthwhile, registrants will generally enjoy the feeling of exclusivity.
· You really might gain some valuable information from your client’s responses if they provide serious ones. You might learn more about the demographics of your audience, for instance. Or build your eMail list.
Ultimately, the decision whether to ask users to register for content must be based on your business goals. Is it more important to you to capture user information than to disseminate the content? Will you benefit enough if you structure the form to require only certain fields – allowing them to choose what to share?
And always consider – is the information you might gain from registration sufficiently important to put up with potentially annoyed customers? Because, like in the Neiman-Marcus example, you might think your content’s worth $250 of their time – when they think it's only worth $2.50.