The Three Ts of Time, Thought and Typing: measuring cost on the web

“Create your free account”! “Free for 30 days”! Lots of companies will sell you their service by telling you how cheap it is to use. So why don’t you sign up to all of these services? They’re FREE!!

You don’t sign up because they’re not actually free. They might charge no money, but they have other costs. These hidden costs are time, thought and typing. Let’s see some examples.

Time is a well-known cost. We frequently hear platitudes about the fleeting nature of time. Why did you not start that free MOOC? It looked like it would take too long. Your time is precious.

A less appreciated cost is thought. Why did you not complete that short questionnaire for the chance to win a new car? It asked a difficult question, and you would rather think about what to buy for dinner. Your thought is precious.

The last non-financial cost is typing. Why did you not buy that gadget online? It asked for your delivery address, which was too difficult to type while you were lying down with your iPad. Your fingers are precious.

The trifecta of time, thought and typing comes together in the signup form. The signup form is an exercise in losing business. The signup form wants an email address. Where is that confirmation email? It takes TIME! The signup form wants a password. What’s a good password? THINK! The signup form wants that password again. I can’t be bothered with all this TYPING!

Together, time, thought and typing are The Three Ts. When designing your service, remember: TTT, not $$$. How can we improve the sign-up form, and get more users? The traditional way is to reduced perceived $$$: “Sign up for a free account”. No! Instead, reduce TTT. One way to reduce the TTT of sign-up is by using Single Sign-On: “Log in with Google”. SSO reduces the costs in typing: no username or email address. SSO reduces the costs in thought: no password. SSO reduces the costs in time, to less than ten seconds.

If you can’t reduce TTT, you should try to reduce the perception of TTT. Your visitors continue to entertain your service if they believe that the TTT costs of continuing will be low. So another way to improve the sign-up form is to delay it. Do you need their email address now? Do you really need them to provide a password now? Maybe you can delay asking for these things until you need them.

There is a relationship between time, thought and typing. Typing implies thought. Typing and thought imply time. Thus, instantaneousness implies no time, thought or typing. Amazon knows this: “Buy now with one click”! One click is real quick, and also tells you that you won’t need to think or type.

Finally, many people are willing to pay $$$ for lower TTT. If you reduce perceived TTT, you can increase $$$!

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I wrote this because I felt like it. This post is not associated with my employer. This site is hosted by Netlify (who are great, but I'm not associated with them either).