The first interaction a customer has with your software is through your signup form. First impressions count, so it’s important to make the process as quick and painless as possible.

According to a report by Heap, SaaS businesses can expect to see a drop-off of up to 64% on the signup form alone. That’s nuts! So anything we can do to get that number down will be good news for your business.

Let’s look at some examples of what we can find in existing SaaS apps. We’ll go through the good and bad of each. I’ve turned all these real-world examples into wireframes, to protect the innocent.

Example 1: The unified login and signup button.

Before you jump to the next block of text, look at the wireframe below and see if you can find the mistake(s).

image showing an example of a SaaS login form

OK. What’s going on with this ‘Signup’?

  • They give the user the option to signup with Google. I, like millions of others, hate filling out forms. If you can make it easier by adding the option to signup with existing platforms, you’re already ahead of the curve. There is a tendency to think that signups who use Gmail, Yahoo etc are less serious in their intent, but I think we’re missing the point. As customers, we value our privacy and time, and using our day-to-day email addresses is very often the preferred choice to check out a new piece of software. So, let’s give the option.
  • Even though the form is minimal, it’s misled the potential customer. The customer clicked on ‘Join’ and was presented with a ‘Login’ modal. Confusing, right? They also changed the language from ‘Join’ to ‘Signup’. Consistency is one of the golden rules of UX. Say one thing and follow through.
  • Another mistake is not using input labels. While you could argue that the form is very simple, it’s good practice to label your forms. The customer may get side-tracked for a split second and think, “Did they want my email address here or my name”? They have to delete what they’ve typed just to check what the input placeholder says. You should label your forms for two reasons:
  1. For improved usability.
  2. For improved accessibility.
  3. For consistency. At some point in the onboarding process, customers will need to fill out more data. I imagine that you’ll use labels. So be consistent.

There are a couple of ways we can correct this real-world example (I won’t tell you which SaaS is currently using this signup form).

  1. Create separate ‘Login’ and ‘Signup’ buttons. This keeps things simple and is the preferred method. I should note, that this is only a correction to the above example. Ideally, you should take your customer to a new and separate page to signup ;) 
  2. If for some reason you must use a single button, create a dropdown where you have both options, ‘Signup’ and ‘Login’. Each one will take the user to a separate page. But I would recommend simplicity first.

You can see a couple of these improvements below. 

Image showing two examples of SaaS login forms

Asking for too much upfront.

Unbounce ran a study in which they reported the following:

  • Signup forms with 3 fields enjoyed a 25% signup rate.
  • Signup forms with 3 to 5 fields enjoyed a 20% signup rate.
  • Signup forms with 6 or more fields enjoyed a 15% signup rate.

While the length of a form will depend greatly on the complexity of the software and the customer’s need, the data is significant. Keep it shorter where you can. 

Which of the two forms would you rather fill out?

Image showing examples of long and short SaaS signup forms

While there are only 4 fields in the second version, I’m guessing you said number 1.

Something to bear in mind, just because the first and more attractive form only has one field, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask for more information later. Get them into your software first.

Look at it this way, which of the information in the second form is necessary for your customer to be successful, right now? More often than not we ask for information we don’t need because it makes us (feel) successful. We can segment, have interesting data and feel good knowing that our newest customer is a Fortune 500 etc. 

It bears repeating if you need more data from your customer, get it from them at a later point. First, get them through the door.

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Social proof. It won’t kill you. 

Social proof can give your potential customers a nudge if they’re on the fence. While this isn’t strictly UX, it can affect your conversion rates. Including testimonials or a bragging board is rarely a waste of space. They help potential customers feel more confident about their decision to give your software a chance. Below you can see examples of just how simple this can be. Simple, yet effective. I should point out that some folks don’t give much stock to testimonials as “no one reads them”. This may be true (in some cases), but they serve as another string to your bow. Testimonials are very effective if the potential customer recognises the author of the testimonial or their brand. They may be a friend, an influencer or a founder they respect. So don’t underestimate their power. 

image showing an example of a signup form with social proof
image showing an example of a signup form with social proof

A word on signup security.

Let me just start with this. I hate Captchas! 

If it’s important for you to keep the bots at bay and you think a Captcha is the answer, please rethink your strategy. As a potential customer, I want to get into your app as quickly as possible. Don’t make me do a song and dance just for the privilege. A simple checkbox or email validation solution is enough. Seriously, skip the fire hydrants, lorries, boats and post boxes!

No good can come of using Captchas ;)

image showing an example of a signup using Captchas

Asking for a phone number. Should you?

Unless your business model can’t function without it, don’t ask for a phone number on the signup form. Requiring a phone number will affect your conversion rates and put the fear of god into many potential customers. Many customers will use a fake number to avoid annoying sales calls, myself included. Seriously, don’t call me!

To sum up:

  • Keep it short, sweet and non-threatening.
  • Separate your ‘Login’ and ‘Signup’ buttons.
  • Let people signup using existing platforms.
  • Don’t punish people for using Gmail, Yahoo etc.
  • Make your captchas less annoying (or remove them altogether).
  • Include social proof.
  • Unless your business will go under tomorrow, avoid asking for phone numbers.

And while we’re here...

We might as well take a quick look at forms while we’re talking about the signup process. 

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re everywhere. Given the fact that they are so mundane, we should try to make them as easy to use as possible.

  • Keep your fields in one column. Straight up and down. While it can be tempting to throw in a second column, it’s generally not a great idea. Users tend to miss fields. It’s better to split the form over a couple of screens than have huge multi-column forms. Also, our brains are much better at handling smaller chunks of data.
  • Try to put your labels above the input field, as opposed to on the left. It makes more sense when your customers are on mobile and there is a greater chance that your customer will complete the form. Like any rule, they are made to be broken, but this is a great place to start.
  • Display inline error messages where the error occurs. I’m sure you’ve filled out a form only to receive a generic, ‘There is an error with the data in this form’ message. OK, great, show me where it is! Don’t make your customer search for something that should be obvious.
  • Don’t optimize for space by using placeholder text as labels. As soon as your customer starts typing, they will immediately forget what field they were filling out. They’ll have to delete the text to double-check. Not a good experience.
  • Language matters. Make your button text descriptive. Describe the action the customer is about to take.
  • Don’t use inline validation until the customer has finished filling out a field. There’s nothing more annoying than being told your email address isn’t valid. Let me finish first!
  • When designing your buttons, distinguish between first and secondary actions. This can be done with the use of colour and/or outlines.

Auth tokens.

This is a minor one, but a real pain. 
You “login” to an app you use on a regular basis. You are clicking around, you go to perform an action, and suddenly the app informs you that you aren’t logged in and kicks you out!

This is a frustrating experience. Either a user is logged in, or out. There should be no half-measures. If an auth token expires, don’t let your users in, it will create resentment, and frustration…and you know what happens if that continues…Goodbye SaaS, hello new SaaS!

The signup process for any SaaS is a challenge, unique to the market you're in, your customers, price points and many other factors. By using best practices you are improving your chances for success. But don't forget, any rule can be broken if it has a positive impact :)

Let me know if you make any changes to your signup flow!

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