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56 Comments

Why you should launch your product without a login

I've launched 2 successful web products (and several unsuccessful ones) that did not have a login. The product that
I'm currently working on (Keepthescore.co) has over 50k pageviews per day, monthly revenue of 2000 USD and has been online
for 4 years -- and I've only just added a user login.

So what are the advantages of launching without a login?

Summary

By deferring implementation of a user-login you are:

  • Speeding up development and reducing code complexity
  • Reducing friction for your users during onboarding
  • Reducing the attack area (no email or password storage)
  • Potentially adding SEO benefits

Let's dig into these reasons.

No login => simpler code => quicker launch

When I learned to code, it was whilst building the frontend for Kittysplit.com as a side-project. A few years later,
I was still very much a beginner when I began work on Keepthescore.co. Again, it was a side-project. I am convinced that if either of those products had
required a login I would never have built them. (Keepthescore has since become my full-time job).

Adding a login means you need to know about sessions, password hashing and other stuff which is very
intimidating to a noob. It is likely to tip her into the "hmmm, this seems more trouble than it's worth" camp.

So how does a product without a login even work? In the case of Keepthescore.co, when you create a new scoreboard you are
given a unique and secret link. You can access and edit your board with the link.

To make things easier, the unique link
is stored in the browser cookies and then shown locally, so that you can find your scoreboard later. It's not a perfect solution (I often get support mails
asking me to retrieve "lost" scoreboards) but it is good enough.

When you launch something completely new, remember that you're trying to learn something. In the lingo of The Lean Startup, you are validating your value hypothesis:

The value hypothesis tests whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once they start using it.

In my experience, your initial customers don't care about a login. Sure, it's more work for them in some situations, but if they are really bothered by it you will find out. Usually they're not, so you can spend your precious resources building more important stuff.

No login => less friction during onboarding

Reducing friction during onboarding is a little like compound interest. It will only make a small difference initially
but over time it can turn your product into an unstoppable juggernaut. If you have competitors that require a signup to see their product, whereas your product
can be used without, that could absolutely will help you win in the long term.

The Indie Hackers Growth Bites newsletter puts it like this:

By allowing people to use your product before signing up, you can reduce friction substantially and make it easier for them to experience the product's value. And the more time they spend, the more invested they'll be in the product. This is particularly true when they're building something (e.g. graphics, landing pages, etc.), thanks to the IKEA effect. And all of this can result in higher conversions.

For Keepthescore.co it takes a new user literally less than 10 seconds to get from the landing page to being inside the product. I am absolutely convinced that this has contributed to the success of the product.

Also, by following this principle you will be getting onto the extremely trendy "product-led-growth" bandwagon.

Not storing emails and passwords makes security easier

Evil-doers are much less likely to break into your house if there is nothing of value inside. The same is true of your product. It means that maybe you can get away with not storing any personally identifiable information at all which will make GDPR/privacy advocates frothy with excitement.

It is also a strong signal about your product: you can make a sincere claim to being privacy-first and that you will respect the user's data (because you don't have any!)

Potential SEO benefits

If you design your product to work without a login, you are also (in theory) making it very easily accessible to the Googlebot. The Googlebot is the web crawler software used by Google, which collects documents from the web to build a searchable index for the Search engine. This can potentially be a double-edged sword, with the Googlebot getting at thinks that it shouldn't know about. Yup, that's happened to me.

Another, bigger, benefit is that your users will probably share content much more readily if it is easy to access. To use another home-grown example: a major driver of organic growth for Keepthescore has been people posting their scoreboards to Facebook, Twitter and their blogs. This is a very strong signal for Google and others that your webpage has high relevance.

In summary, not having a login will make your product SEO-friendly "out of the box".

Anyway, that’s all for now 👋. Follow me on Twitter to see my progress.

I've also shared this post on my blog

  1. 5

    Someone asked about membership exclusive content but I was more concerned about just delivering for that individual user. How does a user store [something] against their "account" and be able to access it later?

    1. 2

      He said the link is persisted in their browser's localstorage. I think that means next time they visit, the board they are working on is still there.

      Paul Graham recommends this too:

      https://mobile.twitter.com/paulg/status/1261976515408990208

      1. 1

        Good find, thanks for that.

    2. 1

      It's stored in the browser's cookie. Try it out to see ;-)

  2. 5

    Great post. Very interesting to consider. My co-founder wants to do this for our product when we launch (will be a freemium saas).

    What would you say to the counter points on making it harder to convert to paid, harder to build an audience (you lose the list of all those "trial" accounts)?

    1. 3

      Don't worry about converting early users. You will build up a new cohort of users every month. This month's cohort need never know that three months ago the product was free. It's far more important to validate your core value assumptions.

      1. 1

        How do you validate then, without a conversion event? Tracking usage? Daily activity? How far into the onboarding process they go?

        1. 1

          At the most basic level, you should be seeing an overall increase of usage. You should be getting positive feedback from users, you should be getting feature requests etc.

          I'd say conversion tracking etc is much more fine-grained and for later.

          1. 1

            Awesome, thanks!

            What do you use for feedback and feature requests? Have users email? Chat app? Form submission?

            1. 3

              I use a link to google forms and have an email address. As always, the mantra to follow is "don't overthink it"

  3. 3

    This is definitely interesting, but in my opinion, the value gained by implementing user accounts far surpasses the reasons you listed above for not doing so. I don't think few would disagree here.

    Aside from that, it's hard to think of too many product scenarios where user accounts wouldn't be necessary to store user data, etc. in order to make the experience personal.

    Anyway, I'm happy it worked for you and that you've found success without them, but I have to wonder what you, and your users, have missed out on for 4 years without them.

    1. 2

      Exactly...you don't need to collect much personal data but you need a way to save user preferences, etc for most SaaS products such that they can be loaded from any platform the user logins to. I just can't see a SaaS product working without login.

      1. 1

        But my product proves to you that it does work 🤔

  4. 2

    From a technical point of view there are many libraries out there now which will handle user management out of the box. All you have to do is install them and you're good to go.

    In fact I would say that's the more sensible thing to do, it's usually a bad idea to implement your own user login/sessions/password hashing.

    This approach has lots of flaws I think. How do you retain users to encourage them to buy again? How would you handle recurring subscriptions? How do you handle spam?

    1. 2

      Agreed. This almost seems ... silly? Like, adding sign up / sign in / out / forgot password / etc in Rails takes ... 30 minutes (or less!) with Devise.

    2. 1

      Any libraries like this for JS? I heard of Auth0 but there's still a ton of wiring up to do even if you use it.

      1. 1

        I don't know, I'm a Ruby on Rails guy so not my area unfortunately.

    3. 1

      Yeah this was the point I was gonna make. Any decent modern framework has good auth out of the box, so no time saved really.

  5. 2

    But how do you deliver membership-exclusive content without login?

      1. 1

        Is that just because you wish to have a very lean product? I.e. are you planning on implementing it at a later point?

        1. 1

          TBH I’m not even sure what membership exclusive content is 😅

          1. 1

            Well, it's content/features which only your members (i.e. paying users) have access to!

            For example, you have a feature on your website which is "the number of people that can be invited to a scoreboard". Membership exclusion in this case would mean that your free customers can only invite 5 people, whereas your paying customers can invite 500.

            Does that help?

  6. 2

    I 100% agree with this!

    I've tried explaining this before, but people usually scoff at the idea.

    I'm launching a suite of market research products. No login or password required unless you pay. Allows people to experience the entire process before deciding whether to pay -- so I don't have to do so much proof up-front.

    1. 1

      Sounds great. Stay lean. Only offer the paid login once you prove there's demand.

    2. 1

      Is this then similar to "Buy me a coffee" concept?

      1. 3

        Hmm. Not if I understand you correctly.

        I don't run a SaaS, so nothing is being given away for free. We simply aren't requiring users to create a username and password (for now) in order to use our product. If they do end up paying, we'll need their email to send a receipt. But that's it.

        It's on our radar to create a proper login experience for users, but for now, this has worked well for us.

  7. 1

    Worth reading. 🔥🙌

  8. 1

    would you suggest the same for like food ordering sites?

    1. 1

      No, because you need the identity of the ordering person

  9. 1

    I have been doing this for one of my projects.

    There even is an option for premium, without a login possibility.

    The data I store is fully anonymised.

    The downside is that user data, and collecting them, can be really useful.
    Also for B2B partnerships, companies are interested in data. Personalised data.

    Choose wisely, but I think it is definitely a good option to consider!

    Ps. link to the project I was referring to: https://segro.app/

  10. 1

    How do you balance this with things like email capture that can hugely help with the sales funnel? Would you still recommend including a pop-up for subscribing for updates or something along those lines?

  11. 1

    no login, "security through obscurity"... that's Ok until your users have privacy-sensitive data inside their accounts. And after all, anyone can use ready-made solutions like Auth0

  12. 1

    Great post! We're launching our product at the end of the month and have decided to keep it without login. It going to be free to use initially. Any insights on when would be a good idea to introduce a login? I do have concerns on tracking retention and repeat users.

  13. 1

    Bit late to the party on this one but I have some experience...

    I launched Dronedesk - a B2B drone operations management platform - 24 months or so ago. I didn't use a framework but I did use UserSpice which definitely helped speed things up significantly.

    I initially tried offering a free plan which had limited functionality and included in-app nudges to upgrade to paid. That wasn't hugely successful with only around a 10% conversion to paid. All I ended up with was a high quantity of low quality users who were frankly never going to upgrade (but still expected high levels of support!).

    I've now switched to offering only paid plans all with a free 30 day trial and card details required to get started. Now I have a lower quantity of signups (maybe 70% down on free sign-up rate) but I'm seeing a very good conversion rate at the end of the free trial - around 90%.

    I'm about to launch another project - Instant Site Audit - which is pay-per-use and requires no sign-up, no login and only an email address if the users decides to buy!

    I'm incentivizing re-use by offering a discount on future purchases. It's currently a MVP and I strongly suspect I'll need to tweak the pricing model, but I'm excited to see how this one works out!

    1. 1

      The pay per use is an interesting model. Good luck with it. I'd love to know how it goes.

  14. 1

    This is very valuable information and experiment. Thank you for sharing and good luck!

  15. 1

    Exactly.

    I built Web3Forms and it does not have a login till now. Its still in beta but already passed 800+ users.

    Users can create an access key using their email and get a fully functional contact form with in 10 minutes.

  16. 1

    I agree with most of the parts but here is the strategy I followed.

    I learned Passport JS at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-sFp_AvHc8 (freecodecamp - 6 hours).

    Sure I deviated from building for almost 10 days, but once I understood the fundamentals I've pretty much copied the same middleware onto other MVPs.

    While app-specific features are hard to build and if unsure whether it delivers value to your customers, it is worth launching by skipping it.

    However, I feel auth is a fundamental concept, which all products will eventually have that you should know as a developer.

    I believe it is worth your time once.

    If not, of course, there are other SAAS products like Auth0 which will do the hard stuff for you.

    1. 2

      Auth is a fundamental feature, and you should eventually add it.

      My message is: but there are even more fundamental things, like finding out whether the world needs your product.

      1. 2

        I agree, but I am saying there's a high chance you won't achieve success in your first or only venture, and if the fundamentals are strong enough you could re-use them in all your future endeavors.

  17. 1

    Yeah this interesting because I am working on my first start up. It took until me wanting to launch to understand what a MVP is. Think my problem was trying to overcomplicate my MVP, trying to figure out the balance between focusing on product vs. marketing.

    Thanks for the post. Inspiring to read.

  18. 1

    I feel like if you’re on a platform like rails, just putting devise in your app and building some login views is extremely easy. But I agree with the sentiment of going as simple as possible.

    1. 1

      You are right. But I am on Flask, which has no login "built in"

  19. 1

    Love this idea! I've been struggling with user auth/login these past few days and you made me realize that I really don't need it at such an early stage for my product

  20. 1

    In a situation where no one has to log in, how do you handle the problem of spam?

    1. 1

      600 new scoreboards a day, but no spam 🤷‍♂️

  21. 1

    The other day, I asked a related question on IH. Here's the post for a different perspective.

    https://www.indiehackers.com/post/should-users-be-able-to-try-the-app-for-free-with-or-without-registration-signup-7ee62044c8

    At the end of the day, I think the right answer depends on a lot of factors. Here are a few that come to mind:

    • Is your product paid, free or freemium?
    • Do users have to use the product for a while before seeing value?
    • Are there network effects so having lots of free users is valuable?
    1. 1

      Sure, as always, the answer is "it depends".

      I will experiment with forcing a signup in future, once I've added subscriptions.

      1. 1

        Sounds good, I hope you'll write a post on how that experiment goes, I'd be very interested in its results. Thanks!

  22. 1

    Interesting. How do you charge people without login — is it just a one-time payment?

  23. 1

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