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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Make Registration Damn Easy (or Users Will Walk Away)

Register button

I recently registered to last Krakow .Net Developer’s Group meeting. Group’s site is run on SharePoint Server. What does it mean? Well, probably administrators can use vast choice of different web parts available for share point and can configure security in details.

But what’s in it for me as a user? Let’s talk about simple event registration process. What you need to do to register for the event is:

  1. Find a list of attendees just to learn there’s no ‘register’ button.
  2. Learn you need to sign in to the site (SharePoint server in this case).
  3. Register on the server.
  4. Find confirmation email and confirm your registration.
  5. Go back to the event site to learn you have to need to fill your profile.
  6. Fill your profile and learn it works pretty inconsistently.
  7. Go back to the event site to find (surprise, surprise) you still can’t register to the event.
  8. Check your email client to read useless information that you filled your profile. As if you didn’t do it seconds ago.
  9. Learn you need to apply for the group which organizes event before you can register.
  10. Apply for the group. You need to fill 3 required fields instead of checking the ‘I want to go to the goddamn event’ flag.
  11. Read an email telling you that you’ve just applied for the group and need to wait for acceptance. The email does it in completely cryptic way.
  12. Wait patiently.
  13. Get an email with cryptic information about you being accepted to the group. Woo-hoo!
  14. Go back to the event site to find out there is no damn ‘register’ button whatsoever.
  15. After few random tests use ‘new’ and ‘add new record’ options respectively to finally register to the event.
  16. Read an email telling you how “adding registered user in localization workflow has been completed.” What the hell?

I was determined so I made it to the last point. In any other case I’d leave somewhere between point 5 and 8. Is this the goal of hosts? I didn’t think so.

Actually at least half of this rant should be addressed to SharePoint team but if administrators took a while to think what a pain in the neck it is to register to their event they might reconsider the process. They should unless they want to keep it elite and drive potential attendees away. “You’ve passed 16-point registration process; you’re worthy; you are allowed to join.

A nice story, but what is it really about?

If you run or build a site with some kind of registration make it damn easy. Think about the easiest possible way of registration and then rule out at least one step. Do it or potential users will remain potential forever. They will walk away faster than you think.

  • If you can live with anonymous users don’t force them to register (but create an incentive for them to do so).
  • If you don’t need to get confirmation of an email address don’t ask for it.
  • If you don’t need to get full profile of users just leave it as an option, don’t push it to the front page after first login.
  • Don’t create few-step registration process. Just don’t, OK?
  • Use OpenID mechanism as an option which would make registration much easier and much safer for users.

The other story is SharePoint which does really crappy job as CMS standing behind internet sites. There are loads of better options. SharePoint was aimed at intranet sites and even there it doesn’t do a good job. Moving it to the internet is just wrong.

in: software design

2 comments… add one

  • Phil Ruse March 3, 2010, 9:58 am

    You’ll not find me defending Sharepoint – though it’s inevitably the document repository for the company I work for. Do you think it’s a case of bad configuration, trying to do too much, or just a ‘bad’ (inappropriate?) use of the application?

  • Pawel Brodzinski March 3, 2010, 2:30 pm

    Personally I learned to accept the fact that SharePoint is somewhere there used as documents repository so I don’t mind seeing it in yet another place.

    If administrators wanted to make the registration process easy they’d be able to do it despite SharePoint. But if they needed to keep it fairly strict, i.e. no unregistered attendees allowed, they it would require much work to pass through SharePoint crappy standard mechanisms and make the registration process suck a bit less.

    If there are different independent group sites hosted on one SharePoint server and you want control who access your site you basically can’t configure it different way. New user has to register on server first, then join the group and during the process she gets stupid, irrelevant and cryptic SharePoint-generated emails. And believe me English versions of these messages sound hundred times better than Polish ones. I bet translation was done by the robot or someone who is paid as he was a robot.

    If I were administrator of the site I would make it damn easy despite of SharePoint. But if I was forced to use some security I’d give up.

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