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.
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.
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?)
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.