Second chances are expensive. Why? Because it takes five positive experiences to counterbalance the effects of a negative one. If someone’s first experience with your platform is disappointing, you have a long way to go to win back their confidence — if they even complete your sign-up form.

More than 67% of site visitors will completely abandon a sign-up process if they encounter any complications. If you’re lucky, maybe 20% of them will follow up with your company in some way. Whether you’re trying to get people to sign up for your mobile app, e-commerce platform, or company intranet, you must make the process as seamless as possible.

Here are six tips to reduce sign-up friction for your platform.

1. Use a Single Sign On Service

This is crucial for larger platforms that are part of a vast ecosystem with multiple logins, like a complex hospital platform providing access to multiple systems. On the other hand, for a basic paywall, you may want to manage user info yourself. The key is to think strategically about what your systems may look like down the road and how unwieldy your sign-up process may become.

Here are a few things to consider:

Pros

  • Single Sign On (SSO) reduces password fatigue and simplifies password management for users
  • It allows businesses to quickly provide or revoke employees' system access
  • It lowers the security risk for customers, vendors, and partners
  • It improves identity protection with the ability to add multi-factor verification
  • The number of available off-the-shelf SSO products makes it more cost effective to implement

Cons

  • When SSO is down, access to all platform systems becomes more difficult
  • It may introduce a security flaw, as a stolen password from a single user can provide access to multiple systems — which makes multi-factor verification more important
  • SSO using social network sign in may not work in corporate systems where social media platforms are blocked by IT

In the end, the advantages of SSO significantly outweigh the downsides. But you’ll likely need expert guidance when planning and implementing SSO to ensure you reap the benefits while minimizing the risks.

2. Keep It Short

More than a quarter of users who abandon online forms do so because they’re too long. To maximize the number of sign-ups, minimize the steps involved.

How do you decide which fields to keep? Try asking, “If I didn’t have this piece of information, would I still be able to provide a good customer experience?” If it’s something you don’t really need to know, then don’t ask.

Here are two more ways to shorten form length:

  • Use only required fields. Save anything optional for after sign-up, with prompts to help users “complete” their profile. Hide any repeated fields, like email or password verification. Display one email field, then, once it’s being entered, display the second one below it. Better yet, don’t force people to type things twice.
  • Still having a hard time cutting fields? Consider this: Expedia dropped one form field and gained $12 million per year. If a piece of data is labelled as optional, it shouldn’t be in your sign-up form.

3. Use a Single Column Layout

In general, your form should adhere to this core UX principle:

Make the user experience smoother, faster, and better; not messier, slower, and worse.

The simpler the flow of your form, the faster and easier it feels to fill out. Here are a few tips:

  • Put all your fields in a logical order.
  • Make it easy to read and enter information in a smooth flow from top to bottom.
  • Put labels above the input fields, not to the left (as many forms do).
  • Avoid placing fields side by side, except for items where it tends to be the norm, such as city, state, and zip code.

4. Play Nice with Autofill

Nothing makes our sanguine CEO spout expletives faster than a platform that doesn’t allow browser-suggested passwords. While many of those suggested passwords are long strings of characters saved securely to the browser, the letter/number/special character combination may not meet your platform’s arbitrary standards.

In addition, some accessibility checkers will flag fields where autofill is turned off, indicating a possible issue for people with disabilities.

Here are a few more ways to make the experience smoother:

  • In phone input fields, automatically fill in dashes. In date fields, fill in slashes
  • Transition from one field or step to the next automatically
  • Don’t use select lists for date values like months or years

And, don’t forget to test the autofill function on both a desktop and phone — the experience can be very different between the two.

5. Allow Guest Checkout for eCommerce

To put it bluntly, don’t get in the way of someone spending money on your site. Instead, make it easy to open an account just by creating a password. Or, create a new user account automatically with the info you have, then send users an email with instructions on how to finalize the sign-up process.

What we’ve seen work well: after a successful shopping experience, follow up with an email to the customer that sells the benefits of having an account and asks if they would like to activate theirs.

6. Don’t Use a CAPTCHA

That’s right, we said it. It’s time to get rid of CAPTCHA on your sign-up form. Here are three good reasons why:

Instead, confirm any new account the tried-and-true way: with an email to the registered address. And consider if there are ways to clean up your security features on the back end, instead of presenting barriers to customers upon sign-up.

Don’t put the onus on the people who are trying to give you money. Put it on your systems instead.

You Only Get a First Impression Once

As the gateway to onboarding users, the sign-up process is the most crucial piece of your user experience to get right. Whether your goal is to acquire and retain customers, or to engage and inform employees, your success depends on getting your target audience past the initial sign-up hurdle. If their first task is difficult, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the experience.

Don’t let your sales and marketing be better than your user onboarding. Once someone has decided your platform offers what they need, you’re more than halfway to converting them into a user. Just make sure your sign-up process lives up to your marketing promises.