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Registration Forms for Web Apps – Dedicated Page or Modal Treatment?


In meeting with a Web App UI client this afternoon, we were asked the following question:

Is it better to have your Registration/Join page:

  • Exist on a dedicated page with the full site navigation in place;
  • stay on a dedicated page without the site navigation;
  • or, have the registration form exist in a modal?

Surprisingly, after searching a bit I was unable to find any data or metrics that offered hard proof suggesting any of the options above. So we’re proposing an open forum on the merits of each treatment while we find an opportunity to A/B test it for ourselves.

A Case for Each Option:

1. Dedicated Page with Full Navigation:
The most obvious or traditional choice for a registration form is to exist within a dedicated page – either in the sidebar or as its own page accessible from the site’s main navigation. Indicating that you’re actively on the registration page but keeping the other navigation options allows the user to further research your application’s offering. For ex: if they’re unconvinced about joining, they can check out the Tour, review the Features or find out who the Team is behind the application. Why not allow them that freedom?

2. Dedicated Page without Navigation Options:
Recent research based around the higher conversion rates of tightly-focused landing pages suggests that once the user has navigated to the Join page, they’re ready to make the decision to sign up and offering them extraneous links that might result in them navigating away is bad practice. Chances are, they haven’t gone directly from a Google search or link from a referring website to your “Join” page, but rather arrive at the Homepage, a Tour, a Features page or a targeted landing page from an AdWords campaign. If that holds true, then perhaps stripping out the navigation and making the user focus on registration makes sense. It may be that this streamlined approach increases the user’s focus on completing the form and beginning the process of getting started with your app. Does increased focus equal higher conversion rates?

3. Modal Treatment for Registration:
If the user is willing to click Join or Register in either the navigation, sidebar or in the form of a button on any of your site’s pages and you want them to focus on completing the form without offering navigation options, then why not simply open a Modal window with the registration form? Modals are notoriously well-known for getting users to focus on 1 simple task while keeping the parent page loaded in the background, often shaded out with a background color/image. Several well-known sites I’ve reviewed in the last few weeks use this treatment for not only Registration but also for Sign In forms. Certainly doesn’t seem like a bad treatment.

So now it’s up to you…

What do you consider the most effective way to design and develop a Registration treatment for a web application? What solution would you choose if it was your task to maximize conversions?

Author Alex Fedorov

Alex is a strategic thinker with a gift for information architecture, known for his ability to wireframe complex workflows and multiple states of applications at the speed of light. He is passionate about clean, data-driven design.

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