Unsure of my Checkout Process


I am wrapping up development on a website for a business that I am starting. The website is a combination of an online newspaper/magazine, has an online community, and offers items for sale (e.g. site subscriptions, eBooks, T-shirts, etc).

And the more I look at things, the more it occurs to me that my checkout process is actually quite a bt more complicated than if I was just selling T-shirts.

Because I am expecting most of my business to come from people signing up for an online subscription to my site, I created the fllowing checkout process…

Step 1: Create account
Step 2: Activate account
Step 3: Sign Terms-of-Service
Step 4: Make payment

If I was just selling physical items, then I could simply do this…

Step 1: Shipping Address / Billing Address / Payment Details / Make Payment

However, I want Step #2 above because like this site does, I want to confim someone’s email is correct and that they can log back in after creating the account.

And since they are joining an online community, I absolutely want them to read and agree to the TO before they make a payment and get granted accss to join my online community.

I fear is that having Steps #1, #2 and #3 will cause fatigue in registrants, and many may never make it to Step #4 which is paying me.

(There are other aspects that further complicate thngs, but if I can get some insight on what I have presented so far, that would help!)



the more steps you have in my way to get to something I want is frustrating.

You’ll need some kind of content I can access without having to register at all “I want to see what I’m buying”, aside from that your process is OK. Just try and make account creation totally pared down:

The best I can think of is a pattern
User hits subscribe>
User goes to payment page>
Payment page has email field>
On payment, subscription is activated and email is sent confirming account creation.

you’ll also need some text that says “by clicking this button you agree T and Cs blah blah”


A-ha, but therein lies my dilemma…

If you were simply buying some socks, I would make things as easy as possible for you, so you got your socks and could get on your way, and I could get your $$$.

HOWEVER, in the scenario above, you are joining my online community, and like joining any group, there is more paperwork involved!

Some points…
1.) There cannot be “Guest Checkout” because we need to set up an account so you can come back adn log in again and again and again. After all, THAT is what you are paying for!

2.) I could remove the “Activate Account” step and pray that you didn’t phat-finger your email, but for a transaction where we are trying to set up an account where you log in again and again and again, it’s important to get the email right. In addition, I need to verify that the email is real and that you are the owner, otherwise I could sign up for an account on my website using "lordmolesbury@gmail.com"… :wink:

3.) Unlike most online forums out there, I am very serious about making sure understand “the rulz” and that they read and agree to them. I see that we are entering into a legal cotract of sorts, where you pay me $$$ and agree to abide by my rules, and in return I give you access to a thriving online community!!

4.) We can agree that the last step “Make Payment” is fine as-is.

Valid point, and YES, most of the content on my website is free. What I am doing is not dissimilar from online newspapers like the New York Times or Washington Post or the Atlanatic or The Guardian.

Most content is freely available, BUT if you want access to “premium content” (e.g. exclusive articles, podcasts, crosswords, etc.) then you’ll have to pony up!!

I will also offer a “Money-Back Guarantee” where people get like a week to try the pay-plan out, and if they really don’t like it, I could do a refund.

Sound fair?

What if you phat-finger your email address? Now I have no way to contact you. And now I have to play database admin and go clean things up. A real PITA for me.

Let me describe the gory details of my current layout in the next post…


Okay, so here is a little more detailed description of what I have.

Everything is sketched out on loose-leaf paper, so I cannot easily share it right now, but let me do my best to succinctly describe what I have…

(At each point in the followingd escription where there is a “Step x”, I have that in a buff-colored rectangle so it serves as a heading and helps people to see, “Hey, I am on Step #3.”)

Home Page:

  • User clicks on “Subscribe” button in heading.

Subscription Details page:

  • User clicks “Continue” button.

"Before we continue…" page
<Explain how we are building a thriving community of mature, respectful adults who want to move the conversation forward. And wihile the registration process is a little more involved, it helps weed out unscrupulous individuals!>

  • Use clicks “Continue” button.

"Step 1: Create Account" page
registration form here

  • User completes form.
  • User clicks “Create Account” button.

"Account Created" confirmation page

  • System displays a confirmation page.
  • It has a “You are here” bar showing Step 1 was completed.
  • “Account Created” message informs user that an email was sent to:
  • User clicks “Close” button to close browser window.
  • User proceeds to his/her email account.

Email Inbox

  • User opens up email from my site.
  • It has a buff colored bar that says: “Step 2: Activate Account” (paint-by-dots!)
  • User clicks on link.
  • Browser window is launched…

"Account Activated" confirmation page

  • System displays a confirmation page.
  • It has a “You are here” bar showing Step 2 was completed.
  • “Account Activated” message informs user that they can log in.
  • User clicks “Log in” button.

Log In page

  • System asks for Email and Password
  • User clicks “Log In” button.

"TOS Not Signed" warning page

  • System displays a message on a new page stating: "In order to use your account, you must sign the “Member Terms-of-Service”.
  • User clicks “Continue” button.

"Step 3: Sign TOS" page

  • Display Member TOS.
  • User reads TOS.
  • User types in “I AGREE”
  • User clicks “Accept All terms”.

"TOS Signed" confirmation page

  • System displays a confirmation page.
  • It has a “You are here” bar showing Step 3 was completed.
  • “TOS Signed” message confirms things.
  • System displays, “To finish registration, you will now make a payment…”
  • User clicks “Make Payment” button.

Step 4: Make Payment
On left side of screen, prompt user for:

  • Name on Card
  • Billing Address
  • Payment Details

On right side of screen, show:

  • Order Summary
    ===> Digital Access Subscription, 1-year, $30
    ===> Order Total: $30

  • User clicks “Process Order” button.

"Order Confirmtion" page

  • System displays: Order Complete. Your order has been successfuly processed. Your Order # is 12345"
  • The flow ends.

All of this may seem like a lot of steps/screens, but in reality I’m really not doing anything more than I had to do to register at this website, except that this site didn’t require me to pay!

So what do you think??

nervous look


That’s an interesting case. Check out my suggested flow:

Page 1: Create Account

  • User inputs name

  • User inputs email and presses <send verification email> button near email field
    User gets an email with a numerical code that should be pasted/entered into a field near email on this page

  • User enters code and presses <verify>
    ‘Verified’ is shown near email

  • User enters a password

  • User clicks “Create Account” button.

Page 2: Sign TOS (user is already logged in automatically)

… all further stuff you described including payment

Considering this numerical code email. In case a user closes the “Create Account” page, verification email should also contain a link to the “Create Account” page with user info already filled in. Don’t know your technical restrictions but generally, all this stuff can be stored in cookies or transferred while pressing the Verify button.

I’ve gone through the similar registration process with verification by number, but can’t remember where it was exactly. I’ll try to recall.



Thanks for the thoughts, and a good suggestion!

Stepping back for a moment… How good/bad is the process that I posted above? Is it doable for now?

I like your suggestions, but that will cause me to have to do a lot of re-programming, and at this stgae I would like to ship what I have, and then go back and refine it in a future iteration.

If you think my current process is garbage, then I might have to take more aggressive steps. But if it is okay, then that will give me a little more time.

I also have to think of a good and secure way to store info in case of form abandonment. As a rule, I never use cookies, and always store transactional data in the database.


Even though it would be a pain to fix things up now, my inclination would be to set things up the way you want it in the end, rather than iterating later.


I don’t think the process is bad, I’ve experienced such flow before. Depends on the potential users engagement. If you have things set up already, you can give it a go, I suppose. The tests will show :slight_smile:


I just need to clarify one thing: you are worried about incorrect emails being entered?

You’re being very caught up in the ‘what-if’ scenarios

But to anyone else reading, account creation for ecommerce sites is dangerous idea and needs very careful design


I agree with “Do once, do it right” however I also know that A LOT of startups go out of business because they spend too much time perfecting things while their competition zooms by them!

I need to get this website up and running in the next month or so, or it’ll never happen?!


If you’ve followed the entire thread, then you know that this isn’t a plain vanilla ecommerce site.

If I as selling Tshirts, I wouldn’t be posting.

I can sell you a Tshirt without knowing your email.

However, I am selling a paid subscription to an online community.

And if you don’t provide a valid email and I cannot reach you, then that is a major problem!!

Every online forum I have ever joined - including this one - validates your email address by sending you an email with a link in it.

What makes my situation more challenging is I need to do that AND get you to sign the Terms-of-Servce AND collect your money all at the same time and not scare you off?!

THAT is what makes this challenging.

And, yes, having a verifiably working email address for someone signing up IS a big deal.


Well, the very best of luck to you. I think you’ll have challenges. Make sure you set up analytics to check how your process fares.