As simple as possible, as complex as necessary

The unnecessary complexity of required registration when buying online

13 October 2014

Update November 2015 It seems that GoCardless have now quietly dropped the requirement for end-users to create an account.

I'm a fan of GoCardless, the UK Direct Debit provider. To the extent that I've invested time developing an open-source CFML client library for their API.


But despite their refreshingly modern, agile appearance in a world of old-school banking corporates, there's an aspect of their operation which seems disappointingly last-century to me. Customers are required to create a GoCardless account before they can pay using the service, whether or not it's being integrated into your site via the API.

Requiring pre-purchase sign-up is a well-known eCommerce usability blunder and ironically even GoCardless's own generic guidance warns against it!

People may not want to make an account just to make a purchase - particularly if it's a one off. A recent study found that 25.6% of online consumers would abandon a purchase if they were forced to register first.

If you can, let them skip this step and place an order without registering or using a guest account.

GoCardless Guides: 10 strategies to improve your payment page conversion rate

This has been something of a stumbling block for a particular client of ours selling subscriptions to an online information service which, by its nature, requires registration at their end. Customers therefore have to create two logins during the checkout process: one for access to the product, and another to pay for it. Clunky, confusing and inconvenient.

The main reason GoCardless gave when I raised this with them was that they want end-users to be able to track and control their DD instructions.

But the whole point about Direct Debit is that you have this control already - via your bank.

Want to see details of all your Direct Debits (and not just those managed by GoCardless)? Log into your bank and look. Want to cancel an instruction? Log into your bank and cancel it, at any time. Being able to do so is part of the Direct Debit Guarantee.

They also argued that setting up an account makes it easier to pay the next time as customers won't need to re-enter their details. The classic justification. But "next time" isn't always uppermost in people's minds when they're making a purchase. They just want to buy your thing now as quickly as possible without the cognitive burden of yet another login.

Sure, offer the option to those who want it. But don't inconvenience people and put them off by making it a requirement.

To be fair GoCardless did at least acknowledge the issue when I contacted them - and were both prompt and polite about it.

But even PayPal and WorldPay (about whom I was so rude in my previous post) get that requiring registration impedes sales. GoCardless, it seems, doesn't. I sincerely hope they heed their own advice and change their minds.

Posted on . Updated


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