I recently started a project which requires a beta and invitation system to accumulate users before the application is launched. Having users to test your system in trying to work out bugs and kinks is an essential step in any robust software development process.
But where to start?
Well first, you start by identifying the target audience for your product or service. If you haven’t been doing this since the beginning stages of your project you need to b…..wait a minute, the title is about pre-registering users, not determining a target audience….
Grapple with the fact that there are tons of social networking websites out there. Cram in your head ways to connect your invitation scheme and tie it into those services seamlessly. A choppy mess of code and eye burning design is not going to attract people to your cause. SSO (Single sign on eg. Open ID, Facebook Connect etc…) are great for giving socialites using those services an opportunity to stay on familiar ground, but don’t give up a your own basic member system just yet, there are plenty of people who don’t use those services.
Have you ever heard of six degrees of separation? It’s a cramped world after all, but even on the web, as huge as it may seem, its small as well. Two clicks and you can say hello to a new, or old, friend. Let your users choose. When a user decides to send an invitation to a friend how are they most likely to do it?
Email? Yea maybe, while it is certainly a strong option I sometimes feel that people won’t. It’s more about being considerate of another persons mailbox, do you fill up your friends snail-mail box with flyers for next weeks pub crawl?
Give them them the URL – let them post it, tweet it, put it in their own emails, share on their favorite forums and Facebook. Generate short URL invitation keys if you do it by that method, so they don’t overcrowd 140 character limits.
yup…It may seem like it’s a lot, but giving your potential users some sort of incentive other that ‘My site is cool’ works. But don’t let these schemes fool you as well. You don’t want to just get a bunch of people signing up so they can win a prize, you want to get a bunch of people signing up to win a prize and keep coming back to your application. Be subtle with this approach, while its cool to have a contest to get users, getting users because they like coming to your site is better.