One of the worst ways to treat visitors on your website or users of your app is to demand they register or “Sign Up” before they can fully use its features. Doing so stifles any potential customer interaction, and goes against the reciprocity principle.
According to tests by usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g), only a few things annoyed users more than running into a login wall—login walls are pages that require users to register or login before moving on in the website.
A login wall comes with a high interaction cost, defined as the number of physical or mental actions users must go through in a website to reach their goals. For starters, users have to remember their login credentials if they already have an account, or waste precious minutes creating a new one
Login walls are most effective when they actually benefit the users themselves, as is the case in highly personal applications like email or banking apps, where security is crucial due to potential intruders. Besides this, login walls are simply a nuisance.
Examples of Improper and Proper Login Wall Usage
Despite frequent warnings from NN/g and other web usability experts over the past years, several sites still force users login before they can access any real content. This is especially common on mobile, where login walls pop out the first time an app is launched or a web page is accessed.
An example of poor login wall usage highlighted by NN/g can be found in Task Rabbit. Notice the prominent email address box for users to sign up. If you don’t sign up, you don’t get to see job listings, contractor profile, or any of the services being featured. It’s this kind of obstacle that throws users off.
On the other hand, freelance website oDesk allows users to go through job and contractor lists, giving users a better idea of what the site has to offer, all without having to sign up for anything. The only time you’re required to sign up on the site is when users want to hire contractor or post a job listing.
The common excuse among designers highlighted by NN/g in their mobile-usability classes is that the login and/or registration happens only once, and that the users remain logged in on their next visit. The problem with this is that there may not be a next time, what with users now frustrated after having to jump through a useless hoop. Users do not immediately see the value of using your site or app, but they do know signing up is too much effort.
When it comes to login walls, we at Enform believe that the best practice is to think about what their perceived benefits are to your site’s or app’s users. If those benefits show even the slightest evidence of being nonexistent, it’s best to ditch the login wall altogether. Believe us when we say that any benefit a login wall presents to you won’t be as important as losing the users themselves after being frustrated thanks to your wall.