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Janet Roberts

A (Mostly) Good Registration Form
By Janet Roberts



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I've been looking for a few good online-registration forms, because we'll be revamping ours soon. I found one at HGTV.com's Web site. It has lots of features I like, and one that could either be a brilliant database-building strategy or a sneaky way to send you email-marketing messages you don't want.

Can't wait to see it? Oh, all right, here's the URL; check it out, and then see if you agree or disagree with my views, which include both compliments and concerns.

(HGTV.com is the U.S.-based Home & Garden TV cable channel, a Scripps property.)

I like this form for several reasons:

  • It's logically designed and easy to follow.

  • The form puts a link to the privacy policy right at the top, instead of hiding it in the small print at the bottom of the page.

  • It doesn't pre-check the newsletter-choice boxes; instead, it just describes the content of each in single, pithy phrases.

  • It doesn't ask for too much information, just the name and ZIP or postal code, to aid in personalization. (Although some might object even to those requests, the ZIP code makes sense in order to send garden tips relevant to one's gardening zone.) But that's enough to tell HGTV.com where its readers live without getting a specific postal address.

The newsletter also has one feature that's either a smart way to build a database for future newsletters or a way around the old "Check here to receive information from third parties" gambit.

At the bottom of the form, users can ask to be notified "if HGTV begins offering newsletters on these topics: (select all that apply)." You can check any or all of the 12 interest areas, such as gardening, recipes, entertaining and TV highlights.

In theory, this gives HGTV.com a solid-gold database of permission- based addresses to whom it can send announcements about newsletters.

Yes, but. The interest areas also include home improvement, sweepstakes and home building/finance, which made me think the information will instead be passed on to marketing partners in those categories, which already account for a lot of my spam.

The form doesn't list the usual requests to send you their own email-marketing messages or those from third parties; so, I'm a bit suspicious. The privacy policy can be interpreted several ways.

If the information really is intended to build databases for future newsletter solicitations, that's brilliant. But, I'll be steamed if HGTV.com just uses it for email marketing.

I've asked the HGTV.com people about this; if the answer ever comes, I'll pass it on.

Also, not that anybody asked me, but if I were HGTV.com's Webmaster, I'd promote the newsletter more vigorously on the homepage.

Unless I missed it elsewhere, I saw only one reference, in small letters at the top of the page. Why not an eye-catching address blank, which, when filled in, takes the user right to the registration page? Just asking.

Ezine-Tips for March 17, 2003

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