Forms: One vs Two Email fields

5 Jun 2008 - 5:00pm
6 years ago
18 replies
671 reads
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

>
> I have been trying to track down research discussing the use of two vs one
> field for entering an email address on an online form.
>

I could be wrong about this, but I think the duplicate email field method is
something developers started using to cut down on invalid registrations as a
result of typos. It seems the theory is that by using two fields, the user
has to enter it twice and validation code can be used to make sure they
match, thereby decreasing the chances the entered address is incorrect. I'm
not sure this would stop spam-bots, so I'm not sure that's a reason behind
it, but again, I could be wrong.

An alternate solution is to send the new user a confirmation email and have
him/her click the link in the email to confirm it was received and the
address is valid. But this is far from perfect.

You'd probably have just as much success by asking new registrants to
confirm the sign up information while offering the ability to edit it before
saving it to the database. I've never tried this personally, but it's an
idea.

Any method will have its flaws.

I'm so reassuring!

-r-

Comments

5 Jun 2008 - 6:57pm
Kontra
2007

> It seems the theory is that by using two fields, the user
> has to enter it twice and validation code can be used to make sure they
> match, thereby decreasing the chances the entered address is incorrect.

Any self-respecting individual would copy and paste what's in one
field into the other to avoid re-typing, thereby rendering such
validation useless. As you may have noticed, OS-generated password
fields do not allow copy&paste in a desktop environment, forcing the
user to actually type again, thus validating the previous entry. Not
all web browser work that way, unfortunately, but that may be an
observation requiring another century to reach some of the developers
out there.

--
Kontra
http://counternotions.com

5 Jun 2008 - 6:16pm
bekee
2008

we have shied away from using both since power users probably copy and
paste from the first field (i know i do).

my theory is that if someone wants to ensure they receive important
information they'd be darn sure to enter the important information
correctly.

that said, i've used "leaveme at alone.com" plenty of times... :)

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5 Jun 2008 - 6:18pm
Anonymous

So, is there any research to prove this theory that using two fields
actually reduces error?
How many users copy and paste that first address into the second
field?
How does it compare to using one field that includes inline
validation?

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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5 Jun 2008 - 9:38pm
Jack L. Moffett
2005

On Jun 5, 2008, at 5:18 PM, Wendy Goodfriend wrote:

> How many users copy and paste that first address into the second
> field?

Not to mention the autofill feature. I rarely have to type in my email
address, regardless of the number of fields.

Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.459.0310 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

Questions about whether design
is necessary or affordable
are quite beside the point:
design is inevitable.

The alternative to good design
is bad design, not no design at all.

- Douglas Martin

6 Jun 2008 - 12:40am
Itamar Medeiros
2006

Beekee said:

"my theory is that if someone wants to ensure they receive important
information they'd be darn sure to enter the important information
correctly."

Well, for this specific case -- input your email -- I guess there is
only so many ways that an user could do it! But for form-fillin in
general, you could be surprised about how can user NOT be sure of
what information to input in the first place!

...
{ Itamar Medeiros } Information Design
http://designative.info/
http://www.autodesk.com/

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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6 Jun 2008 - 12:41am
Christopher Jarzabek
2008

I'm sorry that I don't have any research for you, but if I have time
tomorrow, I will briefly poke about to see if I can find something
concrete.

I agree that there are multiple ways to "validate" and they all
have their positives and negatives. Only a handful of times have I
come across the dual e-mail-field strategy, but that doesn't mean
any thought went into making that decision%u2026

Personally, I prefer a confirmation page where I can recheck all my
information. Depending on the input%u2014whether it's trivial or
critical i.e. a user's interests versus billing address and credit
card number, etc.%u2014you should be using a confirmation page
anyway. It doesn't *hurt* to throw in an extra validation check in
the form, too, so long as the form isn't frustratingly long in the
first place, if there serious concern.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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6 Jun 2008 - 1:32am
Yohan Creemers
2008

I%u2019ve no scientific research either, but when I observed users
filling in a form with two email fields, I saw several times that
people filled out the first field correctly, got annoyed with the
fact that they had to retype their address and made a typo in the
second field as a result of that.

Asking a user to retype the email address tells implicitly that you
find your users not smart enough to fill out your form.

In my designs I always choose for just one email field. When a
correct email address is really important for the following
procedure, I add a line of text below the field asking: %u2018Please
verify if your email address is entered correctly%u2019. I use
JavaScript to check if the entered email address has a valid format.
Additionally you could verify the email address in a smtp session,
but you will never get a 100% validation.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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6 Jun 2008 - 4:42am
Pieter Jansegers
2008

I do believe they are some statistics on this.

I came across a site telling me the percentage of people making typos (in
the form: "you wouldn't believe it, but up to ...% of people get this
wrong") - sorry I don't recall the percentage nor the site; I believe it to
be a social site (like that's the thing we're registering for at the
moment).

An other suggestion:

I've always wondered why a confirmation email wasn't send during the first
stage of the login process including some code to enter before even hitten
the "done" button.

If you also include the possibility to upload a profile picture in the
process, you've plenty of time for the e-mail to arrive in due time.

You could even actualize the form with the field for asking this code after
the email as been send... or just with a comment about the exact time the
confirmation mail was sent...

On Thu, Jun 5, 2008 at 10:21 PM, Wendy Goodfriend <WGoodfriend at kqed.org>
wrote:

> I have been trying to track down research discussing the use of two vs one
> field for entering an email address on an online form.
>
> I plan to use inline validation for the field and am trying to keep the
> number of fields to a minimum. The purpose of the form is to donate money to
> a public broadcast station. The email address is used to send an email
> confirmation of the transaction (the user gets an immediate confirmation
> with a printer-friendly version once they complete the process) and is also
> used to send the new member a monthly newsletter. The transaction is
> dependent on having a valid credit card and/or an accurate postal mailing
> address for gifts and billing - in other words, the email address is not an
> essential component for the transaction to go through but it is clearly
> important for the user to receive an email confirmation and member
> newsletter.
>
> Can anyone direct me to research discussing the advantages and
> disadvantages of using one vs two email fields? I am also looking for inline
> validation code that addresses the one vs two field issue as well.
>
> Surfing around I have seen the field represented both ways on forms. The
> representation is not as consistent as the password field which seems to
> typically include two fields since the user does not have visual cues.
>
>
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6 Jun 2008 - 4:40am
Anonymous

A question to ask is how often do people actually complete the form
with an incorrect email address? If it's quite rare, and as you
indicate the email address is not an essential part of the task, then
it seems like an unnecessary burden to place on all users to
accommodate an edge case.

By the way, is your newsletter subscription opt-in or opt-out?

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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6 Jun 2008 - 5:18am
AJ Kock
2007

Here is some "research"
http://www.getelastic.com/registration-usability-tips-ecommerce/

I am trying to find the article which stated that "two email fields
for verification should die". Will post here when I find it.

6 Jun 2008 - 6:02am
Gloria Petron
2007

Wasn't the original purpose of the "confirm email" field to thwart automated
scripts?
It's getting the human touch, confirmation that the form is being filled out
by a person, that's the goal.
As an Alan Cooper fan, I venture there are probably better and more elegant
ways to achieve this
confirmation. Confirming those randomly-generated visual distorted
letters/numbers is an example.

Rather than focus on the high amount of errors that no doubt occur, why not
focus on a way to challenge the
de facto standard? Isn't this standard a leftover of a technical landscape
that has since evolved?
This landscape won't evolve & clean up unless we push it to do so.

If challenging this method is not an option, then in the interests of
letting people complete their tasks
as quickly as possible (and getting out of the way), people should be
allowed to copy & paste.
-G

6 Jun 2008 - 7:20am
Alexander Baxevanis
2007

Actually there is a way to stop pasting in the 2nd field: all you need
to do is write something like:

<input type="text" name="email_2" onpaste="return false">

But it's hardly ever used because I guess it would frustrate lots of
people. I think I found out about this option from a blog article that
was complaining about a website following this practice ;-)

Cheers,
Alex

On Fri, Jun 6, 2008 at 1:16 AM, bekee <bekee at bekee.com> wrote:
> we have shied away from using both since power users probably copy and
> paste from the first field (i know i do).
>
> my theory is that if someone wants to ensure they receive important
> information they'd be darn sure to enter the important information
> correctly.
>
> that said, i've used "leaveme at alone.com" plenty of times... :)
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=29881
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

6 Jun 2008 - 8:00am
Gail Swanson
2008

If duplicating a field is an effective method of validation, why
isn't it commonly used for other important fields throughout most
forms, i.e. credit card numbers, ssn, phone? We can't forget about
the visual validation that users perform while filling out both paper
and online form. If the individual understands that they need to
enter their information accurately to get their desired outcome, the
visual validation will most likely occur.

I have a theory that the appearance of a dup email field is a
misunderstanding of the dup password field. Password fields are
often duplicated because they are masked and therefore the user has
no way to validate their entry.

About a year ago I was trying to find research to back up leaving the
second email field off of a registration form for a project. I
wasn't successful in finding anything that supported either
direction.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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6 Jun 2008 - 8:18am
stauciuc
2006

On Fri, Jun 6, 2008 at 5:00 PM, Gail Swanson <gail_swanson at sbcglobal.net>
wrote:

> I have a theory that the appearance of a dup email field is a
> misunderstanding of the dup password field. Password fields are
> often duplicated because they are masked and therefore the user has
> no way to validate their entry.
>
>
I guess for some cases another possible explanation is that, as opposed to
some other details you might fill in, they're really going to use your
e-mail, so they want to make sure you double-check. I'm not saying it's a
good reason, just brainstorming explanations.

Sebi

--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

6 Jun 2008 - 8:28am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jun 5, 2008, at 4:21 PM, Wendy Goodfriend wrote:

> Can anyone direct me to research discussing the advantages and
> disadvantages of using one vs two email fields? I am also looking
> for inline validation code that addresses the one vs two field issue
> as well.

I haven't seen anything formally published. However, here's what we've
found in our research at UIE:

The problem you're trying to solve is mistyping email addresses.
Depending on the audience, context, and design, you can see typos in
anywhere from 0.75% to 5% of email addresses entered. (Even here at
UIE, we have, on average, 2 out of every 100 email addresses are
entered incorrectly. These are designers and developers with a lot of
internet experience, so it's not just a matter of sophistication.)

Several sites try solve the problem by asking for the email twice. The
thinking is that, if the user enters it the same twice, then it must
be correct. As people have discussed, that doesn't always happen
because more sophisticated users will use cut & paste, which will only
propagate a typo in the second field, making a false positive.

In my opinion, one of the best examples of the 2-field verification is
at Fire Eagle. (It's currently invite only and, for reasons I can't
explain, I received an invite, so I put a copy of the page here: http://tinyurl.com/5cjaqs
) In this case, it's the reason in the copy that helps people
understand why they are being asked twice.

One problem with the 2-field verification is that the typo isn't
always restricted to the first entry. If the user types it correctly
in the first field, but incorrectly in the second field, the
validation fails. However, the user *had* typed it accurately the
first time and will often feel frustrated that it was the verification
that failed. This doesn't improve the user's experience.

So, the alternative is a one-field entry. Here, we've found the best
way to reduce problems is to make sure the input field and
verification display is large. Both the length of the field and the
size of the font should be large enough so people can discern
characters. For example, does an "rn" combination look similar to an
"m" character? Does a "1" look distinct from an "l"? With the right
font, size, and field length, the user should spot typos easier. How
much does "luthern117 at company.com" look like "Iuthemll7 at company.com"?

Most typos are doubled characters or "neighbor" keys (a "j" when the
user meant a "k", for example). Again, a large, clear verification
display will help a lot. Designers, when showing users what they've
typed, often don't ask themselves, "Is this display going to help a
user spot a subtle typo they could otherwise miss?" Looking at the
verification display for that quality can help reduce errors
tremendously.

For algorithms, there's limitations to what you can do. You can check
for spaces -- they're illegal. You can look at the domain portion and
have an validation check that it contains an MX record. You can ensure
there's only one @. Beyond that, there's not much else.

Hope that helps,

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

6 Jun 2008 - 8:41am
stauciuc
2006

On Fri, Jun 6, 2008 at 5:28 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

> I haven't seen anything formally published. However, here's what we've
> found in our research at UIE:
>
> The problem you're trying to solve is mistyping email addresses. Depending
> on the audience, context, and design, you can see typos in anywhere from
> 0.75% to 5% of email addresses entered. (Even here at UIE, we have, on
> average, 2 out of every 100 email addresses are entered incorrectly. These
> are designers and developers with a lot of internet experience, so it's not
> just a matter of sophistication.)

Are these results for forms with 1 e-mail field or 2?

>
>
> Several sites try solve the problem by asking for the email twice. The
> thinking is that, if the user enters it the same twice, then it must be
> correct. As people have discussed, that doesn't always happen because more
> sophisticated users will use cut & paste, which will only propagate a typo
> in the second field, making a false positive.
>
I guess it could help to just test the two kinds of approaches head to
head, in order to see if the numbers you show above for typing errors are
improved at all by using the verification field?

Sebi
--
Sergiu Sebastian Tauciuc
http://www.sergiutauciuc.ro/en/

6 Jun 2008 - 9:00am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jun 6, 2008, at 10:41 AM, Sebi Tauciuc wrote:

>
>
> On Fri, Jun 6, 2008 at 5:28 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
>
> I haven't seen anything formally published. However, here's what
> we've found in our research at UIE:
>
> The problem you're trying to solve is mistyping email addresses.
> Depending on the audience, context, and design, you can see typos in
> anywhere from 0.75% to 5% of email addresses entered. (Even here at
> UIE, we have, on average, 2 out of every 100 email addresses are
> entered incorrectly. These are designers and developers with a lot
> of internet experience, so it's not just a matter of sophistication.)
>
> Are these results for forms with 1 e-mail field or 2?

One field.

It's hard to get exact numbers because you can't tell if an email is
valid, even after the message is sent. Many servers do not kick back
bad email address to prevent "dictionary attacks" from spammers, so
the email just disappears into the void.

We know of the UIE.com failures because we are registering people for
events and they subsequently contact us when they haven't received the
subsequent attendee information and receipts.

> Several sites try solve the problem by asking for the email twice.
> The thinking is that, if the user enters it the same twice, then it
> must be correct. As people have discussed, that doesn't always
> happen because more sophisticated users will use cut & paste, which
> will only propagate a typo in the second field, making a false
> positive.
>
> I guess it could help to just test the two kinds of approaches head
> to head, in order to see if the numbers you show above for typing
> errors are improved at all by using the verification field?

Measuring it is very difficult, for the reasons I stated above. If you
could, it would be an option.

Jared

>

6 Jun 2008 - 11:11am
Diarmad
2007

On 6 Jun 2008, at 13:02, Gloria Petron wrote:
> Wasn't the original purpose of the "confirm email" field to thwart
> automated
> scripts?
> It's getting the human touch, confirmation that the form is being
> filled out
> by a person, that's the goal.

There may be other reasons for a confirm email field to be included
on a form.

An airline client of ours told me that if the email is incorrect when
booking a flight the customer will not receive their PNR (booking
reference). The usual course of action is for them to then phone the
airline helpdesk to get their reference which is a considerable cost
to the airline. In live A/B testing the use of the confirm email
field reduced the amount of incorrect email addresses submitted and
consequently saved them a substantial amount of money in helpdesk calls.

It's an inelegant solution so I'm looking forward to reading any
ideas that can improve the user journey without the risk of increased
costs.

Regards,

Diarmad McNally
Interaction Design Studio

UK: +44 (0) 7808 297289

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