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Signup forms and bad data

One thing I frequently mention, both here on the blog and with my clients, is the importance of setting recipient expectations during the signup process. Mark Brownlow posted yesterday about signup forms, and linked to a number of resources and blog posts discussing how to create user friendly and usable signup forms.
As a consumer, a signup process for an online-only experience that requires a postal address annoys and frustrates me to no end. Just recently I purchased a Nike + iPod sport kit. Part of the benefit to this, is free access to the Nike website, where I can see pretty graphs showing my pace, distance and time. When I went to go register, however, Nike asked me to give them a postal address. I know there are a lot of reasons they might want to do this, but, to my mind, they have no need to know my address and I am reluctant go give that info out. An attempt to register leaving those blanks empty was rejected. A blatantly fake street address (nowhere, nowhere, valid zipcode) did not inhibit my ability to sign up at the site.
Still, I find more and more sites are asking for more and more information about their site users. From a marketing perspective it is a no-brainer to ask for the information, at least in the short term. Over the longer term, asking for more and more information may result in more and more users avoiding websites or providing false data.
In the context of email addresses, many users already fill in random addresses into forms when they are required to give up addresses. This results in higher complaint rates, spamtrap hits and high bounce rates for the sender. Eventually, the sender ends up blocked or blacklisted, and they cannot figure out why because all of their addresses belong to their users. They have done everything right, so they think.
What they have not done is compensate for their users. Information collection is a critical part of the senders process, but some senders seem give little thought to data integrity or user reluctance to share data. This lack of thought can, and often does, result in poor email delivery.

1 comment

  1. Brian McNett says

    Excellent post, Laura.
    I’ve seen this many many times myself. One cannot presume that the end user is either knowledgeable enough, or honest enough to unerringly enter all the information you’re requesting. The more information you ask for, the more likely any individual user is going to attempt to feed you gibberish simply to get the sign-up form out of their way.

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