Debacle: 10 Lessons to Learn About Website Design

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2014-01-21 Print this article Print

The problems with the Affordable Care Act Website,, have been well-documented since they became front-page news in October 2013. When people tried to sign up for new health care insurance plans, the Website's registration infrastructure failed, resulting in page submission errors or the site simply froze up. The poor infrastructure put thousands of user insurance records in potentially compromising situations. While many of the problems have since been fixed and more than 2 million people have successfully registered, there are lessons to be learned from the rocky launch. The usability issues with highlight how vital it is for any government agency or online business to ensure that its registration process is completely optimized on both the front and back ends. In this slide show, eWEEK, Forrester Research and Gigya— which specializes in consumer data management— offer 10 best practices that can help enterprises prevent similar headaches.

  • Debacle: 10 Lessons to Learn About Website Design

    by Chris Preimesberger
    1 - Debacle: 10 Lessons to Learn About Website Design
  • Limit Mandatory Form Fields

    To avoid user abandonment at registration, companies should aim to make the registration process as seamless as possible for their users. One way to take the pain out of filling out lengthy registration forms and creating new usernames and passwords is to use technologies such as Social Login, which allow users to register and log in with their credentials from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other identity providers. Social Login also gives brands permission-based access to users' social data, which can then be used to prepopulate form fields during the checkout process and provide detailed identity data for marketing.
    2 - Limit Mandatory Form Fields
  • Be Transparent About How You Will Use the Data

    Give consumers total control over the information they share with your site or app, and be transparent about how you plan to use their data. Let them know upfront what information you will be collecting and explicitly state how sharing this information will enhance their user experience. You can request additional data over time as trust is built.
    3 - Be Transparent About How You Will Use the Data
  • Give Users Choices

    Always provide users with more than one way to verify their identities, such as which social account to link and the option to set up an account specific to your site. Also be sure to provide a forgotten password field when linking accounts.
    4 - Give Users Choices
  • Make Sure to Test, Test and Test Again

    This was the primary problem with—not nearly enough testing, especially for the number of people who needed to use it. Even if your registration forms are clear, concise and look great, there's still room for improvement. Through A/B testing, where different versions of the same form are targeted to separate users, you can narrow down what button placements, layouts, form fields and designs yield the highest conversions (registrations).
    5 - Make Sure to Test, Test and Test Again
  • Avoid Lengthy Forms

    Eleven percent of U.S. adults have abandoned an online purchase because they didn't want to register online or the site asked for too much information, according to Forrester Research. Presenting users with a long form of empty fields creates a barrier to entry that costs businesses customers and conversions.
    6 - Avoid Lengthy Forms
  • Guide by Design

    Prominently display both traditional and social login options at the top of your homepage, where consumers will be more likely to notice and click on them. Hiding login buttons or fields at the bottom of your UI reduces registrations. A disparate login experience makes consumers feel uneasy and less likely to trust you to store passwords and other valuable information.
    7 - Guide by Design
  • Consistency Is Key

    Make sure your site or app maintains a consistent look and feel from first touch through checkout by branding the login process, creating a cohesive user experience that increases consumer trust and acquisition. Too many brands forget that the registration and login process is not a separate portal to their site or app; it's a core element of the overall user experience.
    8 - Consistency Is Key
  • Think Through Logic Loops

    Faulty logic loops stunt consumer relationships and repeat conversions by barring site entry. One example is when a user attempts to create a new account or link to an existing one, is told that their email already exists in the site's system and is then given no way to recover the corresponding password. Another instance is when a consumer wishes to update his or her account with a new email address but must have access to an older email address to change it.
    9 - Think Through Logic Loops
  • Communication Leads to Fewer Errors

    Page submission errors occur when users cannot properly submit registration forms, either due to a technical fault on the back end or because the form variables don't correspond with the database. For example, a registration dialog with a built-in logic requiring new users to create passwords that are at least six characters in length should clearly communicate this requirement to users upon registration, instead of simply displaying a generic error message when users attempt to submit their registration forms.
    10 - Communication Leads to Fewer Errors
  • Be Prepared to Scale

    Ensure that your database can scale according to your data load. For example, businesses collecting social profile and traditional registration data will need to store and manage unlimited data fields in a secure database equipped to consolidate varied data points and handle sudden spikes in registration volume.
    11 - Be Prepared to Scale

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