Evaluating the Website Membership Double Opt In Process

I have tried to join a few websites as a member recently and have been confronted with what seemed like a laborious double opt in process in order to join. This has got me thinking about the value of a double opt in process for a membership based website. Does it help or hinder the cause? Does it add value and if so what and would I use it if I ran a membership based site?

What is Double Opt In
A double opt in process in this context involves a user filling in a form (to become a website member) and then before getting access to use that membership, being asked to verify the account by clicking on an email link sent to them.

Reasons for Using a Double Opt In Process
The key reason for using a double opt in sign up process is to ensure that the person registering is who they say they are and that they are using a legitimate and correct email address.

The Downsides of the Double Opt In Process
In my view the double opt in process does have quite a few negatives associated with it. Primarily I feel it partially hinders marketing efforts as companies have potentially spent a lot of time, money and effort in getting a person to the site in the first place only to then send them back to their email (a potential distraction) before letting them interact with the site.

I think the impact of a double opt in process on your site will depend on the nature of your offering and also how well known your brand is. If you are a popular site with a strong value proposition or if you will be providing access to content that is sensitive in nature it may be more important to verify the user’s identity before you let them “in”. This may be particularly relevant for sites that focus on transactions or user generated content as this can then form part of the moderation process.

Nevertheless, I personally find the double opt in membership process rather annoying as I am focused on doing one task and sometimes waiting just a minute or two for that confirmation email to come in can be enough to take my attention elsewhere. It makes me question how badly the site wants me to be involved. Or perhaps it just demonstrates that I need to focus a bit more and do one task at a time! Still in the day and age of “busy people” it would be interesting to get some insight into the drop off rate between the initial sign up and the confirmation process for companies using this method.

Sites That Do and Sites That Don’t
When I looked around at large membership based sites, a few were making new users go through a double opt in process, but many also weren’t. Here is a snapshot of what I found:

Sites Supporting a Double Opt In Process

  • Facebook.com
  • Ebay.com

Sites Without a Double Opt In Process

  • MySpace.com
  • Twitter.com
  • LinkedIn.com (they do get you to confirm your email address via an email, but still let you use the site in the meantime – clever blend)
  • Seek.com.au

Alternatives to Double Opt In
So are there any alternatives to double opt in? I personally would look at other methods to verify a person’s email address rather than putting this speed bump in so early in the process. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Verify the membership request using Captcha text (to check it is a person not a machine completing the form).
  • Ask users to enter their email address twice (and verify these match) to limit typing error issues.
  • Send an email to the new user confirming their membership and providing a link to advise if they did not request the membership (effectively an opt out process). This can also include membership details.

What Do You Think?
Have an opinion different to mine? Let us know by leaving a comment.

One Response to Evaluating the Website Membership Double Opt In Process

  1. Double opt in is fairly standard practice for many web forms these days, so it doesn’t irk me. But I think the third alternative you raised is somewhat valid; auto-opt in, with an opt-out attachment.

    I think that part of the purpose of this established double opt out procedure is to stop individuals signing up friends (or strangers) for sites with dubious content – you know the ones I mean! The CAPTCHA alternative doesn’t solve this situation, as most people can solve a simple puzzle.

    So the auto-opt in alternative may continue to annoy these unknowingly-opted in users, who may then receive several more emails before they figure out how to remove themselves from the list.

    I don’t think that double opt in is necessarily bad practice. Okay, so it may take a few minutes for the verification email to filter through, but in most cases it’ll still be labelled properly in your inbox, right? You’ll remember that you signed up to xyz.com.

    Your concern is valid, Louisa, as there’s no doubt that this procedure interferes with the ready-and-willing user who simply wishes to interact with the site, but right now, I can’t think of a better alternative.

    Thanks for getting me thinking about this, nonetheless!

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