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June 21, 2007

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I ran into a similar situation on the USBank website when I was opening a new web account. It asked me to enter my requested username twice. A username that I was INVENTING and was not occluded. While it is possible to make a typo when entering your email address (which, as you say, you would likely immediately notice and correct), when inventing a username, it's impossible to enter it incorrectly.

On a side note, I'm convinced that the angst about this is because software is designed to not allow people to change their usernames after creating an account - they tie the account to the username, so it's your's forever. There's no reason for this, and if we allowed people to easily change their usernames (or email addresses) after creating an account, then there's even less justification for making people jump through hoops when creating their accounts.

But you're assuming that users will enter their email address correctly. From my experience the double email fields trick is usually used for newsletter sign-up because there is a tendency for people to type their own email address incorrectly. May be hard for us to relate to, but not everyone is good wiyh a keybosrd :)

Hi Pat, I understand that people might make typing mistakes entering their email address, but since they can see what they type as they enter it, they could correct mistakes just as they would with any other text entry.

With two fields, you're actually *more* likely to make a typo, since you have twice as many chances to do so.

I still think that communicating why the site needs your email is the best way to ensure users enter the address accurately.

True story from a UI designer...I pointed out that this practice merely doubles the error rate for e-mail addresses and slows down the process. From observations in the usability lab, we know that there are two kinds of users in general: the ones in a hurry who just copy and paste, and the extremely careful ones who type very slowly and deliberately and even read confirmation pages. The first group is going to make the same number of errors anyway, and the second group is more likely to get frustrated and give up if we pick on their typing.

The product manager told me he wondered about my competence since it was "obvious" to him that this practice would cut down on errors, and since all the competitors do it, I must be wrong. The buzzword for this is "best practice." Testing this in the real world wasn't in the plan or the budget, even though someone who couldn't get through the form would represent lost business.

like it

You're contradicting your "The Customer is Never Dumb" post. You're right, the customers are simply multi-tasking and have short attention spans. THUS, they make typos all the time, even if they can see the typo right in front of their face. You're a programmer, so your eyes (and probably your personality/temperament) will pick up easily on tiny errors. Most people will not. And if you've ever been on the receiving end of those errors (i.e. customer service reps and admin. assts.), you would know how much time and energy it takes to track someone down when they've mistyped their email addy.

Another thing to throw in there is "How important is the email address being correct", i.e. if they do type an address in error how easy is it for them to get hold of someone or something so they can correct the email.

First hand experience working for a large Travel website, we found a suprisingly large number of people weren't getting their email confirmation for flight bookings as they had typed in their email address incorrectly. In this case due to the high value of the bookings and the general sceptisim and fear around the overall (not to mention online) air travel process (e.g. booking the wrong flight for example) was a lethal combination, customers would ring us in panic, it got even worse if they had to wait for the call centre to open. We could usually easily resolve it over the phone but it used up our resources but more importantly was a stressful situaiton for our customers to be in and could hinder them booking online in the future

We then implemented the dual email input to curb errors, the number of incidents almost became non-existent.

So while not the most ideal user experience for the average person that gets their email address right (and perhaps it can be done better), but it more than made up for it by saving the few a great deal of stress!!

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