in Web-App

Click here for demo

Have you noticed that fewer and fewer web applications have demo accounts set up? Instead they have a nice short tour, and a drop-dead simple sign up process.

We were pondering whether we should have a demo or not for our upcoming web application. If we were to provide a demo account, people could click once and immediately be taken to a demo they can interact with. On the flip side, this would potentially lower the number of people that actually sign up for our product.

The free sign up idea works great, especially if you have a free version of your product.

I wonder how many thousands of people have signed up for Basecamp accounts, only to abandon them moments after logging in. It’s great for boosting your customer count.

Being able to say you have 500,000 customers is impressive (source: Basecamp homepage). I just wonder how many of those customers actually pay.

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  1. It really depends on the nature of your product, most ‘demo’ accounts are full of spammy content which isn’t representative of what you would actually put in there if it were your account – so you should get an account to yourself instead. If half a percent of half a million users paid you would probably still be happy.

    If you gave me one of these so called demo accounts I could give you some more useful advice 😉

  2. I agree with that statement! It’s so frustrating to view a demo account with all kinds of junk inserted by test users. Right now we’re talking about creating a unique session id for everybody that opens up the demo, and thus each person would have a unique view of the application (and it would expire after a certain period of time).

  3. I’m not a fan of guest accounts, event if you keep it clean of spam (see Ross comment). The main problem I have with guest accounts is that they fail to let the user fully connect with the product or service you have. If they get to use an account with their real data, you increase your change to get them as a paid user, or upsell them on higher paying accounts.
    If you can, have a free version of your service, if not, let people use it for free for 30-90 days minimum.

    An other point I have is that if you can’t offer a free account or free trial, then a guided tour is probably better than a demo accounts so that people don’t have to struggle to understand how to make it work. During a trial, if it is their real data, they’ll make an extra effort to get it. And this gets them that much closer to becoming a long term user 🙂

    Besides, in most cases, a user becoming stale after a few days doesn’t cost you much (no more cpu, no more bandwith), so even if only a few percent of people trying stay, that’s better than noone. A few percents of 500,000 is definitly worth it.

    Of course, it depends on the service you have and something different may make sense.

  4. I think Basecamp’s true number of paying customers is a guarded secret, but I believe the average is 1-5% of total customers.

    The compromise seems ot be offering a 30 free trial. Best of both worlds 🙂