The Curious Case of the Non-Activated Account

I vividly remember being with the rest of the Karkoona team at Web Summit 2015 as part of their Alpha program. In addition to me having the shits, we also had a tiny sort-of-stall thing with no chairs to sit on and about 30 sq. centimeters of space to place our laptops, tablets, demo phones, promotional flyers and stickers. We really needed a toilet, some food (some arrived in the form of sandwiches!) and a bed but we stayed there for 8 hours to answer any questions the people at the exhibition may have had (and they had a lot) and maybe meet some investor types.

So this really investory-looking person comes up to us and asks “Is your app Social?”. We sort of sheepisly answered “yes?” (because the answer is more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”) at which he instantly scoffed and left.

Truth is, we don’t really consider Karkoona a Social platform in the usual sense of the word. You do not use Karkoona to post pictures or your baby or your lunch (or your baby having lunch). You do not use Karkoona to let other people know that you’re Feeling Blessed™. And you certainly don’t use Karkoona to make your ex jealous.

No, you use Karkoona to passingly connect to other people that need to be notified about something. The most you know about them (intentionally) is the things you would know about them by looking at their vehicle anyway: their license plates and, if they have customized their profile, their car brand and model and perhaps color.

Not very Social, right?

What Karkoona does share with Proper Social platforms, though, is the need for users. Lots and lots of users, if it’s ever going to work at a large scale. We are still struggling with getting the traction we wish for but things are slowly getting better. We sort of expected that.

What we didn’t expect throwing a wrench in the works was people registering and then not activating their accounts. I mean, we could see people registering in the database but quite a lot of them weren’t activating their accounts. Karkoona works very similarly to other registration-based services: when you register for an account, an email is sent to the email address that you used for registration, that contains an activation link. Click the link and, as the British say, Bob’s your uncle.

Problem is, Bob wasn’t their uncle.

So what was the holdup? Surely a case for Detective Poirot, correct?

More like a case for Inspector Clouseau, in that we ended up stumbling into the answer through no action of our own. Soon after opening the service for registration and having some articles written about us (which brought in lots of new users), we started getting support emails by users unable to log into their accounts. Turns out, all these people hadn’t understood that after registering you had to actually activate your account.

Was it their fault? Was it ours? Let me just post this screenshot that comes right after the registration procedure has successfully taken place in the app:

I mean, duh, amirite?

Pretty straightforward. It says that the registration is successful and that you should visit your email to activate your account. Everyone should be able to do it. At least that’s what we thought.

We were wrong. For one, we made a huge mistake by using the title “Registration Successful”. While accurate, it gives the user the impression that they are done. Nothing more to do. Log in. You are the (wo)man! Even worse, when users clicked on the “Continue” button, the app would launch the log in screen. So not only did we give the wrong impression, we made things worse by taking the user to the one screen they definitely shouldn’t be taken, at least until activating their account.

Our solution was pretty simple and turned out to be very effective (How effective, you ask? We never had an activation-related support email again after this change). Take a look at the screenshot below:

That’s more like it!

Notice the use of the word “almost”. That definitely tells the user that there is something left to do! They only have to read the rest of the text to find out what it is. Maybe the orange highlights on “email” and “Spam/Junk” are a bit too on-the-nose and maybe the change of title would have been enough on its own, but, hey! It worked marvelously.

Lessons learned

Firstly, do not blame your users for your own lack of UX skills. I like to pretend that I’m the UX expert in Karkoona but I was the one that created this very screen. I was also the one that decided to launch the log in screen when the “Continue” button was pressed. In the Middle Ages they would burn you at the stake for this sort of thing. Who am I kidding? If the rest of the team had a spare stake, they would probably do it right now.

Secondly, treat everything you write (and want you users to read) as an EULA. Most of them will simply click “Continue” and hope for the best. If you want them to read something, make them.

Thirdly, the toilets at the Web Summit are really crowded. Plan accordingly.

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