Log In Or Bog Off

Come to my chamber, fair maid. Certainly, sire, but first you must register.
Come to my chamber, fair maid.
Certainly, sire, but first you must register.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s transfer of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies to the Aldwych was always going to be a hot ticket. So when they went on sale I was there on the RSC website at 10am hovering over the Enter button. The plucky little site did its best but it was obvious that despite shutting every other facility down on the server except ticket buying, it wasn’t coping with the demand.

So I turned to the mighty Ticketmaster. Servers that are built to cope with Madonna at the O2 clearly have no

problem handling a three month theatre run. However my joy at finding tickets for the soon turned to frustration when Ticketmaster asked me to log in before I could buy them. Now I can just about remember my login details for sites I visit regularly like my bank or email accounts but Ticketmaster?

Register Or Go Away

And it’s not just them- Delfont Mackintosh, National Theatre, virtually every site I’ve bought tickets from expects me to remember a login name and password. Now Ticketmaster may well be the number one site in their own eyes but I have news for them and all the other sites like them, I am a regular theatregoer and yet I don’t use your site more than once or twice a year. Amazingly I cannot remember the login details for every site I use.

I know I could ask my computer to memorise the login details or use the same ones for every site but this doesn’t seem best practice in these days when computer security is constantly under threat.

Why do websites make you log in to buy?

So, apart from an inflated sense of their own importance in their customers’ worlds, why do websites insist that you log in to make a purchase? The answer is, I suspect, that it’s helpful to them. They can track your buying habits, analyse the data, improve their marketing. They might also claim it helps you because you don’t have to fill in your details again. Some sites will even offer to store your credit card details but, when major banks have customer information stolen from them, do you really trust the security of any smaller business’ computer?

A site like Ticketmaster might argue that registration is a weapon against ticket touts but I imagine such people would simply register a new email address every time. That’s what I did and I just wanted four tickets for myself.

What’s The Customer Friendly Answer?

The starting point for a commercial website should be the high street shop. If someone bought across the counter, would they need to register? (Would they for that matter have to sign a 30 page agreement to terms and conditions, but that’s another story.) The customer friendly solution for Ticketmaster and all retailers is to offer the option of a Guest checkout.

Even worse are sites that won’t let you in at all unless you register. This is the behaviour of a site that just wants your information and is tricking you into registering even though there is nothing worth seeing once you’ve entered. The Nielsen Norman Group who specialise in the analysis of website use said recently, ‘We rarely have seen users more annoyed than when they come across a login wall.’ If your site asks visitors to register to see it or to buy from it, check how many people abandon their visit or their basket at the point they are required to register. Then ask yourself why you need them to register and whether it’s worth annoying so many people. If you have a reason that satisfies you, I guarantee it won’t be because you want to build good relations with your customers.

By the way, I saw there was a new quick test to see if one had early signs of Alzheimers. First question, what is today’s date? I had no idea. No wonder I can’t remember login details.

By Paul Lewis

After a short stint as a journalist, I have spent most of my working life in marketing and retailing. I love theatre and have been lucky enough to work in theatre marketing for many years. I provide small businesses and arts organisations with holistic marketing at an economic price through my company Seven Experience Ltd

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