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I'm going to ask/answer a question on a new site, guys! Let's just fill out this last form here.

login form

Well, I don't have an account, so to register I just fill in my name and email, right?

Wrong. Kind of. It's very easy to assume the right form is for registration, rather than posting via a throwaway unregistered account. Making the fact that it's a throw away account here is a bit too complicated. Instead, why don't we draw more attention to that log in link?

login or register

I avoided the word 'or' here because it's already used in the divider

Technically you can sign up from that log in page too; and that makes a registered account, not a sad, what-if-my-cookie-is-deleted, unregistered account. By making it explicit you can register for realsies via that link too, hopefully we could get a few more registered users and a few less users confused as to why they keep losing their dang accounts. This also leaves the unregistered option totally intact.

Unregistered accounts are sort of a confusing pain in the butt; worse, with 87 sites, a registered account lets you access them all with one account. But if you're unregistered you don't get that access, and you probably don't know it. Anything we can do to goad a few more people into registering as early as possible is a net gain for the user's experience and the site/network as a whole.

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6  
It may also be worth having an explicit "post as an unregistered user" blurb on the right hand side of the "OR" divider. –  voretaq7 Aug 8 '12 at 14:43
    
@voretaq7 interesting idea. I thought this one was a pretty easy win though so I thought I'd post it separate from other ideas –  Ben Brocka Aug 8 '12 at 14:49

3 Answers 3

When asking or answering a question before logging in, there are several options:

Post as a guest

Picking any of the options on the left will allow you to create an account or log in using an OpenID or Facebook. But filling in an email address (and optionally a name) will allow posting as an "unregistered account". After posting, the following banner will appear at the top of the page until dismissed:

Password banner

The email address you provide will also be sent an email:

Recently, you asked a question on Mi Yodeya, but you haven't verified your email address yet.

Click on the following link to verify your email and set a password so that you can log in.

Set Your Password

If you try to log out, you get this page:

Log out

Following any of the set a password links:

Complete Signup

When you provide a password (twice), a Stack Exchange OpenID will automatically be created for you using the email you provided. You will later be able to log in again with your email and password:

Log in

Note that if you actually do log out of an unregistered account, the only way to log in again is to create a password. The "account recovery process" sends the link to set a password.

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We're on it.

One of our focus areas right now is dealing with challenges to onboarding for new users, and this particular issue is high on my list of things we need to make more intuitive.

Exact implementation is still in discussion, but both your point and the one made in @voretaq7’s answer are valid and in line with our plans:

  1. It should be much easier to sign up for real, and much harder to accidentally wind up with an unvalidated account
  2. There should be clarity, and maybe a little encouragement, around how to upgrade to a full account.

(Status is listed as deferred due to lack of clarity on timing and specifics of implementation, but it's a live priority item right now.)

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I assume this is related? –  Ben Brocka Feb 18 '13 at 14:27

I would go a step further and add a "Register your account" link/button that shows up in some consistent location on the UI after you've made a post as an unregistered user.

(I'm assuming we don't have one -- I never actually had an unregistered account on the Stack Exchange network...)

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Shut up I'm making that a separate request :P –  Ben Brocka Aug 8 '12 at 14:48
    
@BenBrocka I ALSO DEMAND A KITTEN! –  voretaq7 Aug 8 '12 at 15:12

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