Why the ‘Retype Email Address’ pattern doesn’t work in web design

10 June 2012

One very common pattern in registration forms is the Retype Email Address field.

Essentially, it’s a duplication of the Email Address field to verify the email address the user is inputting. At first glance, it seems like a sensible idea: it theoretically reduces scope for user error, but practically, I wonder if it really does. So, here’s why I think the retype email address pattern doesn’t work:

  1. Most (all?) modern browsers save user form input by default, so it’s likely the field can be populated from previously entered content. Failing that, I’ve seen even unsavvy users simply copy-and-pasting one field to the other, bypassing the point of the field (there’s even a Facebook page with 3500+ likes on the topic);
  2. It’s another barrier to account registration; an extra field to complete which, to me, seems redundant;
  3. And for much the same reason as above, entering your password and/or email address twice is intensely frustrating on mobile devices;

I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on this!