I had a chance to talk with [my friend Adrian](http://www.holovaty.com) the other day while he was in Atlanta on a layover from a [Poynter](http://www.poynter.org) conference.
We got to talking about something we mutually detest… user registration.
User registration, I think, is merely a bad implementation of a real business (and editorial) concern — that is, **getting to know your audience.**
We **should** want to know more about our audience — it allows us to provide better content and advertising.
Had our print brethern tried to gather more information about their audience, earlier in the game, then circulation (and maybe the entire concept of a newspaper) wouldn’t be in the bad shape it is today.
* Getting to know your audience — **good**
* User registration (in its current form) — **bad**
Over the next few entries, I’d like to tackle imagining an alternative to UR. To start, I’m going to list the information/goals that UR tries to serve, and we’ll tackle them individually.
I’d like this to be a community process, so feel free to add your ideas, suggestions, criticisms, via comments or trackbacks.
The central idea behind this system is that *people are bad at providing data*.
It’s 3:04 p.m., do you know how truthful your UR data is?
I should clarify, people are notoriously bad at giving you data, *for the sake of giving you data*. And they’re really bad at giving you *truthful* data when what they get in return *isn’t tied to the data they’re asked to provide*.
If I offer you a muffin for your zipcode, why should you give me, a total stranger, your real zip code.
Now, what if I’m offering you a list of great bakeries with spectacular muffins that are all near your house. In return, give me your zip code… get the idea?
Here’s the list of problems our “new UR” should try to solve:
* What content does the user like to read?
* What advertising or advertisers would the reader be interested in?
* What kind of a reader are you (demo/psychographics).
* Where does the user live?
* Does the reader subscribe to the paper?
While I go and try to find the answers to some of these questions, and maybe a muffin, feel free to write in with other things that we need to know about our users in order to be able to better serve them — then we’ll take stab at trying to find ways to gather them.
Your “new UR” isn’t far from the reality of more advanced registration systems already deployed.
My company already targets advertising based on expressed interests and related behaviors on site. As a consumer, the more you use our site, the more relevant the ads should be to you. And we’re not the only ones doing that.
I agree that we, and many others, should do more to match the questions we ask to obvious customizations of our sites. Again as a consumer, if you want certain types of information sorted certain ways and presented in priority over less-useful types, we should be asking you questions that help us determine how to do that.
And you would then expect to complete a registration process, even WANT to do it, because the payoff is intuitive and clear.
So I agree, philosophically, that current registration schemes appear in customer experience as more a barrier, less a motivated request for personalization. We’re getting there, though.