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Pros And Cons Of Site Registration

As I was having a conversation with Ryan the other day, he brought up the subject of user registration and highlighted a few websites which forced users to register if they were to be part of that community. While that is fine and dandy, there are numerous pros and cons with regards to user registration which I’ll try to highlight in this post.

Pros:

Sense Of Belonging – When a user registers an account for a website, that typically gives them a sense of belonging. They no longer have this sense of just passing through the neighborhood but instead, have become part of the larger collective.

Weeding The Garden – Those who register for a website are more inclined to participate and make use of that membership. After all, if someone has to go through a series of steps to become part of your community, chances are high that they will make their membership worth the effort.

Internal Affairs – Unlike those who browse to your blog, leave a comment, and then disappear as fast as lightning, registration enables you to keep things in house such as communication, participation, etc.

Promotion – If someone registers an account to let’s say your WordPress powered site and you notice that they are contributing by way of excellent comments, you could easily promote the individual through user roles/permissions to become a content producer for the site.

Incentives – In order to build your community, you can offer incentives to those who register an account. These incentives could be increased profile configuration, more authority, etc.

Cons:

Barrier To Entry – More times than not, forcing a user to register with a website is like putting up a sign that says do not disturb. What is the most common method of solving this problem? Moving on to another site which provides the same information with no need to register.

Administrative Headaches – While having a vibrant community of serious people would make any webmasters day, this has the potential to turn into an administrative nightmare. You not only have to care for the site, the sites content, and whatever else may be attached to the site, but you now have to ensure that the registered user information within the database is never damaged. You may also be opening yourself up to performing more than necessary administrative tasks such as assigning user roles/permissions, fixing broken user accounts, changing nicknames around, etc.

More Spam – It doesn’t matter if your user registration form has a CAPTCHA image on it. Spam bots always find a way into your site. The user registration system is one more opening for them to get through. You can almost file this under the administrative headaches category.

More Things To Migrate- This one is also borderline Admin. headache but think about how much easier it would be to migrate data if 10,000 registered user’s weren’t involved. The less things to migrate, the more portable your data is.

These are not all of the pros and cons associated with this topic, but it’s time to delve into some serious discussion. First off, I’m of the opinion that if there will only be 1-10 people associated with a blog or a website which will handle administrative tasks such as content management, content publishing, etc, user registrations should be turned off. Why add the extra overhead if you don’t need it? Secondly, if you are a blogger who enjoys comments, forcing visitors to register an account on your site is a great way to kill the social interaction. If you don’t believe me, check out Kyle Eslicks post on what I feel is a disturbing trend (Blogging Discussion: Registration Required to Comment?)

Conclusion:

So, we’ve covered SOME of the pros and cons related to user registration. It’s time for you to share your thoughts and opinions. For instance, what is your normal reaction when you come across a post in which you would love to comment on but instead of accessing the comment form, you are greeted with a big fat registration page? Do you force users to register an account on your own blog? Has this helped or hurt your blogs ability to grow?

Looking forward to this conversation.

Author: jeffc

9 thoughts on “Pros And Cons Of Site Registration

  1. I tend you agree with you. Until a site has reached mass popularity, registration seems more like a brick wall than an invitation to join a community.

  2. I think the downsides of requiring registration are far larger than the benefits. Only with an extremely popular site do I think it makes sense to seriously consider it. And even then I doubt it makes sense most of the time. OpenID I would at least consider as a option – it is really not ready yet, I don’t think, but may become a reasonable option if you really want to restrict some…

  3. @Ryan Yes. Spam goes way down, but instead of comment spam, you have to deal with user registration spam. Replacing one with the other.

    Your second point is along the lines of the opinion I came up with last night after publishing the post. There IS no silver bullet for allowing or disallowing user registration. It’s a case by case basis type of deal.

    @PJ I agree. You make it easy to comment and people will comment. Also, if the blog author keeps the conversation going by responding to comments, the more the merrier. However, you left out EMAIL in your comment form. Adding email to your list of pre requisites pretty much describes just about every blog commenting form out their.

    @m38967 I’m along the same lines. If I am a frequent visitor to a site and I have to give them my details over and over again, eventually I’ll get sick of it and just register an account.

    @JonathanT Excellent point Jonathan. I thought about the use of OpenID and sure, it could be used to make registering an account easier. However, OpenID is still on the cusp of being mass adopted and until WordPress or other major publishing platforms decide to support the feature by default, we won’t see mass adoption.

    @ChrisExactly, I think registering and non registration is a case by case basis type of deal with no silver bullet.

  4. I can see both sides of the coin. However, many of the arguments for not having registration is somewhat changed when you introduce an OpenID standard. I have signed up to more sites than I can remember, and I think its that process that has tired many people and lent to the refusal of signup, not to mention the unknown factors of how much spam they will get from the site owner.

    However, if you were to introduce OpenID to your blog, I am willing to bet those same people who will stop, will now GO right in. It is likely those same people who didn’t want to register, probably already have an open ID. A blog that embraces this standard will likely appeal to those same people who will stop.

    I have yet to find a blog that does this. Which makes me wonder if I got something, or if it’s been tried and failed.

    As for spam, reCAPTCHA is excellent for both commenting and registration. So preventing spam really isn’t a reason to disable functionality.

  5. I just realized the last few days i was not logged in, and thats why i kept getting the name, email, url fields below each comment.

    I thought you all had changed to registration, but i did not understand why i was being forced to input my details on every comment. Duh! I wasn’t logged in.

    As for registration, if its a site i like ALOT, and one i frequent regularly, then i will register. But if its a random site i dont visit often, or know well, or like that much, then NO.

    But as for blogs, this is quite tricky. Because most dont require it. So to visit a blog, and be forced to register, im like…….no way. But what i said above about if its in my RSS feed, i might do it. Like if Problogger Darren Rowse did it, i would do it, cause i am a regular there. Same here at Performancing.

    But it is a tricky request for newcomers.

  6. The trick to stopping spam, you change your WP options to moderate any post that has even one link, and put a little effort into your “bad” keyword lists. That way 99% of the good people can get right in there and comment and see their comment posted immediately, which I have a hunch helps CTR on ads. Trust me, this can take your blog to warp 10.

  7. I refuse to comment on blogs/newspapers that require a login. There’s a reason why I have 10,000+ comments on my blogs. You make it easy to comment and people will comment. You make the form too long, complicated, you’re turning away business. Simple as that.

    Look at this form, it’s like a novel, you got an entire glossary of HTML tags, think about it! All you really need is a 3 things:

    name:
    comment:
    [submit]

    That’s it!

  8. Honestly, spam goes way down if you require registration and require moderation on the first post.

    I think the answer to the question of whether you require registration or not depends on what you want out of your comment section. If you want a tight-nit community of thoughtful commenters then you want to require registration. If you’re more interested in quantity of comments and giving the impression of having a popular blog, then you’ll not want to require registration.

    The niche really matters here too. If you are a breaking news site, then you’ll probably not want to require registration because most likely people have a special interest in commenting on *just that* story that they found in search. If you are more of an editorial, review or resource site, then requiring registration might be smart because you’ll want more insightful and thoughtful comments.

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