Albert Wenger on the logged out experience as it relates to top of funnel:
Companies that get the logged out experience right can get a lot of mileage from that. In particular showing immediate content and only then driving users into either registration or app download seems to work well. Pinterest did a great job with this both for deep links and for the homepage. Instagram’s deep link pages are fantastic — you see the photograph but the second you want to take an action (e.g. heart) you are driven into registration.
So there’s an acquisition benefit, forcing visitors down your registration process. And as his USV partner Fred Wilson wrote last year, there are also engagement and on-boarding benefits:
At some point, if you want to deeply engage, or in Etsy’s case transact, you’ll need to log into social services. But you can get a lot of value from them without logging in… Some social services, like Facebook, require login to access most of the content you’d want to consume there. They don’t have to think so much about the logged out user. But other social services, the ones that are public by default, have to think very carefully about the logged out user because they logged out user base is huge and valuable
He goes on to suggest a fluid transition between logged out and logged in states:
I think that social services that are public by default and have huge logged out user bases, should “phantom register” their logged out users by storing activity against their cookies and building user profiles on their logged out users… Lightweight engagement might be favoriting an item on Etsy, hearting something on Tumblr, or starring something on Twitter.
Later, he used Twitter to illustrate this dichotomy:
100 million active users… [and] over 400 million monthly uniques just to Twitter.com, according to Google Analytics… An active user is a Twitter user that logs into the service. So that means that 75% of Twitter’s users don’t log in every month.
Luke Wilson has covered this topic as well, analyzing Twitter’s redesigned registration process in the context of new user onboarding:
When done right, gradual engagement communicates the core essence of a service with a few lightweight interactions. If you can make people successful along the way—even better. Will Wright, the creator of the Sims & Spore, has a belief that games should allow people to succeed within the first five seconds. That’s a great philosophy to bring to gradual engagement. In fact, I think if you can use lightweight actions to allow people to accomplish something relevant to the core of your product within their first one or two interactions with your service, that’s gradual engagement at its finest.
Twitter calls this concept the ladder of engagement and divides users into three buckets: curious, casual and committed. At each step of the ladder, there’s a tool for the job:
Engagement is not a binary value. Once people get into Twitter, it’s a very fast ramp to active usage. But there a set of users that sign up and never come back… Usually when people come to Twitter they see a big cliff. They don’t know what it is or how to use it. The people that have been using it for years know what is going on, new users don’t. There’s a big learning curve.