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Design for Sign-Up: How to Motivate People To Sign Up For Your Web App

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You've got about eight seconds to convince a person to become your customer online. Usability expert Joshua Porter tells you how to make every second count in this excerpt from his new book, Designing for the Social Web.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

  • "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

In a theoretically perfect world, the people who try your software for the first time have unlimited time on their hands: they hear about your web application, they go and find out more about it, and, discovering how valuable it is, they sign up for the service immediately. They appreciate the time and energy you've put into your work. The end result is a real, valuable connection between the maker and user.

In practice, however, we've got about eight seconds to make that connection.

Yep, we've got only the tiniest fraction of time to have the most important conversation of all: why someone should use our software. Of all the moments of interaction, this is the most important one, because it is when a person decides to start a relationship with you. It's the moment of decision, when someone answers the question: is this software worth my time?

What Are They Thinking?

Given how important this moment is, it's surprising how often what we imagine people are thinking differs from what they're actually thinking. Here's a typical disconnect:

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 The difference between what we hope people are thinking and what they are actually thinking is all too often quite large.

Ok, this is a slight exaggeration (but only slight). Our imagination is so powerful that we imbue our audience with the characteristics we want them to have: confidence, decisiveness, and passion. We want them to be really excited by our software. But, realistically, they're probably not. Most likely, even people who are interested in our software still have to be convinced before taking the plunge.

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