A LinkedIn connection shared a link to a site she thought was interesting. OK, I’ll bite. I head over to the site.
I can’t see any page without signing up or logging in. There is a popup blocking my every move. No matter how many times I reload the page or what page I click on in the half a second before it comes up, I get the overlay.
And it’s not your traditional lightbox… where clicking outside of it makes it go away. I was hoping for that because it has NO CLOSE BUTTON.
I am at a dead end. The message here is:
Sign Up Or Leave
Let’s take a look at that home page (click to enlarge).
I still see this from time to time. A marketing person (never a UX person) says, “If we give them no choice but to sign up, they’ll sign up!”
I just got here. I don’t know what your company does. You won’t let me find out. I can’t click any links. I can’t even get to “How It Works” because your overlay won’t go away. Does that mean the “How It Works” page is only for people who’ve already signed up? Do you imagine that people will go through those steps, agree to unread terms, and I bet end up on at least one email list without knowing what your company DOES?
Some might. I guess I could go get a temporary, burner email address and give you fake sign-ups.
I closed the browser window.
That doesn’t help marketing either.
Marketing doesn’t want fake sign-ups. They want real people they can market to.
Marketing also usually wants people who are interested. If you put 10,000 mostly-disinterested, forced-to-register people on the mailing list and 20 open the emails, you will appear to be failing. If you make 10,000 people sign up to your site and you sell 20 things, it will look like you are failing.
If 100 truly interested people sign up and join the mailing list and 20 of them open emails or buy something, now this looks like it could have legs. That’s 20%… because you marketed to truly interested people.
Bad data on home page bounces
This company might see a lot of home page bounces when they check their analytics. People come to the home page and then they leave right away without seeing other pages.
Will the people reading those analytics understand that it’s probably because we visitors had an obstacle? We COULDN’T get anywhere else without signing up and we decided not to make that level of commitment yet.
Will the people reading those analytics think that the home page just isn’t grabbing people enough? And send UX and UI people to keep redesigning it? I hope not. I honestly have no opinion on the home page yet because I couldn’t experience it. A popup blocked me the whole time.
Drop the fantasies of the big database
The big database of uninterested people won’t get your company very far, especially in a world where people want to hear about “adoption” and “conversion.”
If people don’t look at your individual offerings, if they don’t buy them, you’re going to know. People will wonder why you’re not converting, especially with all those people hitting your home page or signing up. They signed up… why aren’t they buying? Oh, we MADE them sign up.
Improve the UX
Give me a way to close that popup. Let me explore your site. If your offering is compelling, I will WANT to sign up. You won’t have to force me to do it. You won’t have to make it an obstacle. I’ll be looking in the header for a “SIGN UP” call to action button.
Make me want to sign up because you’re so great. Don’t make me sign up before I even know what you do.
I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing online event reg systems. I do it roughly every 12-18 months. And after nearly 10 years of holding events, the winner remains RegOnline.com. No, they’re not paying me to say this. But hear me out.
If you have a simple event, then EventBrite and ones like it are just fine. You don’t need RegOnline. But evidently, when you need RegOnline, there is nothing else like it.
Do my class registrations look like the most sleek, modern, fancy things? No. But they are simple, laid out decently, and mobile friendly. I’ll take that. 🙂
Why Is An Axure Class Such A Complex Event?
My Axure classes live in San Francisco are not complex on the surface. A core skills class for the first two days. An optional third day on mobile app prototyping.
What’s complex is what I have cooking behind the scenes and how little of it I’d like you to see… so you have a better user experience. This means I need an Event System that knows when to show ’em and when to hide ’em.
- Each “Event” has two classes. You can sign up for one or both.
- Whether you sign up for one or both, the system should treat you as ONE attendee. I found other systems where once you said one ticket to this and one ticket to that, they assumed you were two people.
- There is an early bird discount. Each class has a different price and a different early bird discount. I need to put in when the early bird starts and ends, which is then shown automatically. Other event systems show you an early bird ticket like it’s separate from ticket at another time. I don’t want a long list of tickets by what date you are registering.The system should only sell you the ticket you can get on the day you are registering.
- There group discounts. The pricing is different for individuals (party of 1), send the team (parties of 2-4), and send the department (parties of 5 or more). If you are registering a group of 3, should you see the other two prices or ticket types? No, I’d like those hidden from you so that your path is uncluttered.
- I want there to be discount codes BY class. Most of the systems I reviewed would give people a discount at the end on their whole order. I can do that too, but I like being able to granularly control what discount codes are available (if any) based on a number of criteria you the user will never really see. Plus I don’t discount Axure software licenses, so I wouldn’t want discounts on the whole order.
- We sell discounted Axure licenses to people attending the class (I give them most of my reseller discount and basically break even). The system should understand that selling a class space is different than selling a thing, and RegOnline gets that.
- Most of my class attendees are groups that work at the same company… but they can’t always use one credit card for all of them. For internal accounting reasons, sometimes they have to split the check. RegOnline will let a group register and then have one person pay for everybody OR say how much they want to put on which card. Satisfies everybody.
- I’d like to auto-email people of different types at different times. I want to email people X days before my class with a reminder of the location, time, and other facts. I’d like to email them the day after the class with a follow up survey.
- RegOnline’s back end reporting looks a bit outdated in places but is very flexible.
The Beauty of RegOnline Is That The Complexity Is Behind The Scenes
Most of the event systems I looked at suffered from one or both of the following two things:
- Painful for me to set up. Bad UX on the admin side. Awful layouts. Confusing sections. So many screens just to build one ticket.
- Cluttered for you to use as a class registrant. Most of these systems would list out both classes, early bird and regular reg, and then each of the three group types. That means some reg systems would show you 6 ticket types and some would show even more. That’s no fun to use.
When you hit my class registration pages, one of the first things RegOnline finds out is how big your group is. That way, you are only shown the options and pricing for a group that size (on the next page). That good UX you didn’t even know you were getting. 🙂 Here is how it looks to me in setup (click to enlarge):
What you’re seeing is that there are agenda items, in this case the two-day class as one unit and the mobile app class as another.
- They then have sub-entries representing price discounts that are automatically given to groups of a certain size.
- The field type of “always selected” means you don’t have to ask for this discount. It is there automatically. The Registrant Types area is where I say that only groups of a certain size can SEE this, which is how I give a cleaner UX to groups of other sizes.
- The pricing on the right lets me say what discount they get.
- What you don’t see is that underneath that is additional conditional logic. I could say, for example, that everybody who answered the question “How familiar are you with Axure” as “totally new” will get another $20 off. I don’t do that, but I could. 🙂 Or that everybody who answered a reg details question a certain way sees something in the agenda others don’t.
Room To Grow
RegOnline can do a bucket of things I’m not even asking it to do.
It can understand travel and hotel registration as part of signing up for my classes, but I’m not reselling hotel rooms so I don’t use that.
It has some mobile features, which I don’t really use.
When you create agenda items (that people can sign up for or interact with), you have a LOT of choices.
It actually does a lot more, so if you have a fairly complex event, it may be a good choice for you.
On top of all that, RegOnline is affordable
Choosing to not pass event system fees to my customer (nobody should do that!), I can tell you that RegOnline is fairly priced. As they are charging cards for me, I lose that percent. I could put in gateways but I don’t bother. I’m going to lose that percent no matter what.
They then charge $3.95 per registration no matter how much the customer spends. No minimum per event or year. I can’t really complain about $4 per person! It’s a fair price for what I’m able to do and how easily I can do it.
So after another round of looking at various event systems, including ones that claim to be very complex and fit right into WordPress, I will stick with RegOnline.
I have a Starbucks card I’ve managed online. That means I have a Starbucks account. I can log in, see my card(s), set them to auto reload, and other relevant stuff.
Starbucks sent me a 15% off coupon for their Starbucks Store. OK, sure. I use your decaf Via packets a lot since it can be hard to get decaf when consulting at places that like their caffeine. I put them in my cart and went to check out.
My login didn’t work. That didn’t make sense. I’m on the Starbucks site. I have an account. I’m ready to buy something.
Ohhhhhhh really? Nobody there could figure out a way to allow you to shop with the account you already had? I now need to juggle and remember TWO Starbucks logins? One for my card and one for shopping in the online store?
That looks like UX debt.
That seems like the kind of thing someone will have to fix later. I wonder if it would have cost less to build correctly in the first place… so that people can use one account.
The layout of the address input is rather odd.
I’m in Firefox on Windows. And this looks fairly jumbled to me. It’s also not clear which fields are mandatory or optional.
More UX debt that seems like it would cost more in time and money to fix than to have just launched lined up nicely and looking good.
Conference registration pricing. We’ve all seen the table that basically tells us, “Hey, register early! It’s only going to get more expensive.” And many of us do, thinking we’ll save money. I’m attending Web 2.0 this week. Here is what their website tells me is their registration pricing (click to enlarge):
I signed up early, and decided to be cheap. Expo Hall only. My boyfriend found a coupon code in an ad on the BART (local mass transit, for those of you not in the Bay Area). Coupon code BART for 20% off. So we paid $80 for Expo Hall. But on 20 March, not even two weeks before the event, I was hit with this Groupon (click to enlarge):
This Groupon gave you your choice of two discounted passes to Web 2.0. For $249, you get a workshop-only pass (originally priced at $895). For $99, you get a Web 2.0 Lite pass (originally priced at $350). We just paid $80 for Expo Hall only. So I emailed the registration people asking if, in light of the Groupon, we could each please pay $19 each to have the Web 2.0 Lite level. They agreed. So we’re at Web 2.0 Lite for $99. FYI the difference between Expo Hall only and Web 2.0 Lite is that with Lite, you may go to one session and one “conversation.” Otherwise, it’s just expo hall and the things going on there for both passes.
Cut to last week. I’m riding the BART on Thursday 24 March, just days before Web 2.0 starts. An ad on the BART is telling me I can come to the Web 2.0 Expo for FREE! Expo Hall passes are FREE with a coupon code I didn’t notice out of frustration. Meanwhile, if you just hit the website, the Expo Hall Pass is still $100. I guess if you’re not local, and you’re paying for a flight and hotel room, you can also pay to walk an exhibit floor.
My user experience would be somewhere between, “Grrrrr,” and “Are you kidding?” I think about SXSW’s pricing, and how you’d never see a discount code or last-minute fire sale on attending SXSW. I think about how Google I/O sold out in hours.
So what’s going on here? To me, this is when a conference didn’t decide up front where they make their money. Do they make it mostly on exhibitors and sponsors? Do they make it more on attendees? I’ve been to many conferences and expos that gave away free expo hall passes. They want bodies to parade past exhibitors’ booths so they can show exhibitors how many people the show can attract.
They have serious sponsors, so they must have serious money. I wonder what attendance at all levels would have looked like at half the “early bird” prices, with those prices not going up over time, and with no last minute fire sales or Groupons. What if the workshop pass had been $249 the whole time?