It’s a dark pattern found in many websites to make its visitors enter some data, and when submitting, it asks to sign up or sign in to see the results. If the users are not interested in signing up, then the time they spent on entering the data is wasted.

I recent experience made me write this post.

A couple of days back I found a website in ProductHunt that offered its users to generate blog post ideas based on the topic that we give. I opened the website, and on the landing page itself, there was a text input field asking for the topic. I thought for a while and typed in a topic, and clicked on the “submit” button, eagerly looking for the blog ideas to be generated. As soon as I submitted it, it asked for me to sign up or sign in to proceed. But I didn’t know that I have to sign up to use the service until this point.

It feels like stealing my data and demanding a ransom — the results are returned only if I sign up.

Had it been made very clear that I need to sign up or need payment to enjoy the service in the beginning itself, it would have appeared more authentic to me. What if I signed up and there’s another step asking for the payment which was never mentioned before? What if I have to agree to some weird terms and conditions only after giving my data? Are there more hidden “ransom” surprises like this?

Another popular example is image converters. I opened a website that offered to convert PNGs to SVGs. I browsed and selected the files. Uploaded everything. It showed all the “processing” animations for a couple of seconds. While I was waiting for the SVGs, it opened a new page asking me to sign up to download the generated SVG files. Why did you waste my time, why did you take my PNG files to your server and not giving me the results? Why didn’t you tell me that I have to sign up in the first place?

Click here to see a working example of ransom sign-up.

Dear websites, if you want to be truthful and honest to your users, tell them beforehand what are the conditions to use the service. Don’t collect their data first and hold it for ransom signups.

  • If you want me to sign up for your service, that’s totally fine, but tell me beforehand.
  • If you need me to pay for your service, that’s totally fine, but tell me beforehand, not after collecting my data and holding the results.
  • Or, you could give me a limited version of the service that doesn’t require me to sign up or pay, so that I can evaluate the service and eventually sign up and make a payment if I find it worthwhile.

Dear websites, please stop asking for ransom signups.

Read the discussion on this on HackerNews.