August 31 2012

Surprise! People hate being forced to use Facebook

When you sign up for a new website, do you use the convenient “Connect with Facebook” option?  Or do you just make an email & password account?

In this post we take a look at signups for our previous startup and conduct a “man on the street” survey to see how people feel about Facebook Connect.

Survey says… “hell no”

We wanted to know how real people feel about this, so we hit the streets to ask random tourists in Seattle’s Pike Place market for their reaction.

Don’t worry, we used pictures to make sure they knew what we were talking about.

Here are the results:

The most surprising thing about the survey was 1) people actually understood what we were asking them, 2) the pure vitriolic hatred of being forced to use the Sign Up with Facebook option.  Some people said “of course - I love Facebook”, but many more said, “No - never. Never never never.”

Actual user signup behavior

We shouldn’t trust small un-scientific surveys too much, and there’s a difference between what people say and what they do. So we looked back over a year’s worth of signups for one of our sites, Shopobot, to get some more meaningful numbers. This is a better test, because the signup screen offers both options with equal weight and we have over 70,000 organic signups.

Younger & Tech Savvy use Facebook More

Back in early 2011, the beta testers were somewhat open to signing up using their Facebook account, with 42% choosing to connect.  Apparently the tech-savvy HackerNews / TechCrunch crowd is either not super concerned about their privacy, or we did a great job of convincing them we were trustworthy.

Mainstream Audiences use Facebook Less

But once the site was released publicly in June and more mainstream users started coming in from NYTimes, CNN, and other big media sites, you can see the preference to not connect with Facebook.  Only 23% took this choice, and the other 77% created an email & password account instead.

It turns out real people actually are concerned about their privacy and wall spam, and would rather not connect to Facebook on their first experience with your site.

tl;dr

If you’re building a consumer facing site, you should really offer an email & password signup option.  The vast majority of users prefer this.


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