Respect your users, Let them leave

Making it easy for your user to sign up is paramount to most, if not all websites that are selling something, even if its just a company website  signing people up to your news RSS feed is important... right?. Well yes, but it is just as important to make it easy for them to leave and/or unsubscribe to your website. However given my recent discussion with several rather large companies I feel the need to write an article about this subject. The companies I am involved with and talk to all know the importance of signing people up and calls to action (its what I teach them) but they all seem to think:

"Once we have them, surely we want to keep them captive and never let them go"

Now without dancing around the bushes... this is a load of bull.

Why I approach the subject with clients My reason for discussing this with clients is fairly simple. Like many of you I have many accounts dotted around the web, on a number of websites multiple accounts for various clients and bits of work. Take facebook I have 4 accounts, twitter I have at least 8 accounts, I have 4 or 5 google accounts a .net passport and am member to many forums (and many more places I have membership also).

One day I wanted to shut a few accounts down as I no longer dealt with a client, we hadn't fallen out or anything like this... the company fell into liquidation and the administrators decided we had to close them all down... for very few was this easy.

For example. BrightKite - the client was automatically checked in with his iPhone each time linking to a part of his site or his latest article (nice little script for this added to an app) - to delete this account took a series of e-mails to their support team to get the account deleted.

Deleting FaceBook was a little easier to find, Twitter even more so.

But Why is it Important? Well if you hadn't gathered I am "tech savvy" and if I can't figure out how to remove an account then someone not so savvy will struggle even more. So make it easy for someone to delete or deactivate an account!

Jumping through hoops sending email is not something people want to do, have a button ... send them an email and use a double-optout or double-deactivate method ...

Going Further Given the above I would now say a few things - mainly aimed at e-commerce websites:

Keep to the reason they signed up - (aka what will they get from this sign up?)

Let them opt-out of things - (or even better make them opt-in to things)

Don't Spam E-Mail or The Site - (don't fill things with adverts everywhere, keep it simple)

In case your users aren't in any way technical have several methods of contact - (forms, e-mail address, written address and phone number - also you social network links)

Remember your unsubscribe links in newsletters