No Sign-up Necessary (the strikethrough method)

Two apps, Posterous and SignApp, have a novel way to communicate how easy it is to start using their product. I call it the strikethrough method.

It’s a simple feature: the designers simply cross out one of the normal, expected steps of getting started with the service. On the home page of the site they show the usual, expected step of creating an account and then put a red line through it. Easy.

Here it is on Posterous:

Posterous - The place to post everything. Just email us. Dead simple blog by email.

Here it is on SignApp:

SignApp Now - Simple Sign Up Sheets

Notice that striking through text actually adds information to the sign-up page that doesn’t need to be there. By informing people they don’t have to do something (create an account), the designers are adding extra information to the page. Why bother doing that?

It has to do with expectations and psychology. Our expectation is that we have to create an account to use pretty much any software online these days. We have been conditioned to think so…and this method plays against that concern.

By explicitly pointing out that you don’t have to create an account, these sites defy our expectations and strive to delight us with the welcome news. You mean I don’t have to create an account? Wow…that’s nice. The simple idea that we don’t have to create a username and password might be enough to start people using the software. At the very least it has our attention.

Not all applications will be able to use the strikethrough method because they will require a password for increased security or other reasons. (a password could be either a site-specific password or a 3rd party sign-in such as Facebook Connect or OpenID). In fact, Posterous becomes much more friendly when you do create a password: in the email they send you in response to your initial email they provide reasons to create a password. (customize your site and choose your own subdomain)

The strikethrough method is an example of microcopy done well. It serves to address a common concern and helps reduce the commitment we feel as we sign-up for the service.

If more and more sites start using the method and people begin to see it everywhere the strikethrough method might lose its novelty. But we are far away from that day. Right now it is a nice touch for lightweight apps that can make use of it.

Published: August 18th, 2009