Anatomy of a Good vs. Bad Sign Up Form

It’s hard to tell the difference between a good and bad sign up form at first glance. But when you examine the design details of each form field, the difference becomes clearer.

Bad sign up forms make users do extra work with more typing and thinking than necessary. Good sign up forms lessen the user’s physical and cognitive load. Here’s a detailed look at the anatomy of a good versus bad sign up form.

Bad Sign Up

1. The term “Sign up” is ambiguous and abstract to understand

Not every user understands what “Sign up” actually means. This term refers to the interface requiring a digital signature according to the terms of an agreement. Although it describes what’s occurring in technical terms, it doesn’t describe the user’s task in practical terms.

2. Using in-field labels forces users to recall what each input represents

When users fill out fields with in-field labels, the label disappears. Users have to rely on their memory to recall what the label is. If they don’t remember, they may have to delete their input to see the label again. This requires a lot of cognitive work that slows them down.

3. Some international users don’t have a first and last name

Not every user has a first and last name. Their cultural background determines how their name is structured. These cultural differences make it difficult for international users to split their names into a first and last name field.

For instance, Latin American users have two last names, one from each parent. For East Asian users, their family name comes first and personal name last. Indian names denote caste, village, and profession and are mixed into parts of their name.

4. Users often make typos confirming their email in separate fields

Requiring users to type their email in two textfields increases the probability of typos. Emails often contain letters, numbers, and special characters that make it harder to type correctly on the first attempt. As a result, email confirmation fields will not only slow users down, but they’ll frustrate them.

5. Users often make typos confirming their password in separate fields

Most passwords contain a mix of special and alphanumeric characters. It’s hard to type right when users can’t see their input. It’s even harder to type right when they have to type it twice in separate fields. There’s no way for them to know for sure whether they’ve typed their password twice correctly.

6. A list of password requirements is hard to read and overwhelming

Users can get discouraged if they see a long list of password requirements they have to meet. Not only do they have to take time to read it, but they have to make sure their input meets each of them before they continue.

7. Choosing numbers from select menus are hard

The number of possible menu options for Day and Year on a birthdate is enormous. There are 31 day options and over 100 year options to choose from. Users have to scroll and search through a long list of numbers to pick the right one.

8. Scrolling through a select menu with only a few options is extra work

Select menus require multiple clicks and scrolls when users interact with them. Using a select menu to choose between genders is overkill and puts extra work on users.

9. It’s easy to forget to tick the checkbox before submission

When users complete the last field and see the submit button, they’re ready to press it. However, an error displays because they often forget to tick the terms of service checkbox. The checkbox is so tiny that it’s easy to overlook. It’s also at the bottom and overshadowed by the big submit button.

10. The white background can cause eyestrain and obscure fields

White textfields on a white background have little color contrast. As a result, they make textfields harder to distinguish and scan. Not only that, but a white background emits more light and reflects all the colors of the visible light spectrum into the eyes. This makes the form so bright it can cause eyestrain.

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