An alternative to confirmation email links

Everybody has suffered through the tedious process of account registration and email confirmation. You want to join a cool new site your friend told you about. But before you can do anything you have to click a stupid link in what otherwise is the worlds most useless email. The entire process hinges on an email that’s only value is a link that reads “Click me”.

Confirmation emails have one goal: make sure the recipient clicks the “verify your email address” link. These emails do not provide the recipient with any useful information about the site or places they should visit. This is by design – its imperative that the user clicks the verify your account link; but there’s a better solution. For years sites have employed tracking pixels, a 1×1 pixel image, to record information, such as open rates, to the servers. This same technology could be used for email verification.

The email would contain tracking pixel, but instead of tracking information the email would verify the recipients email address. Text-only email recipients would still require an authentication link. And it would not be a bad idea to include the old boring “Verify Account” link for email clients that don’t load images by default. Either way, the verification email could be redesigned for user engagement rather than the singular goal of verify an email.

Using the tracking pixel to handle email authentication will change the way new users are first introduced to the site. Where users were once greeted with a “verify account” link, they can now see trending articles, essential new features, or other essential site information.

  • Mitchell McKenna

    So your saying that email confirmation emails kind of suck; it doesn’t include anything important about the website because the sender needs to give the email a single focus on having the user click the link to verify their email address – it’s kind of a wasted opportunity. I’d agree with that. 

    And by using the tracking pixel, you can include the link, however, it doesn’t need to be the main focus of the email, you can welcome them to the site, describe what the sites all about, and other important info for a new user. If the user clicks the link and the tracking pixel worked as well, nothing lost there, and the user isn’t any wiser that the tracking pixel already verified them. If they don’t click the link, possibly because the main focus of the email is no longer on verification link, the hope is that the tracking pixel has verified them anyways. I like it, I’d like to see some stats on having it A/B tested.

  • baileylo

    I’d definitely like to do some tests about the success rate of an authentication pixel. Another solution I thought about was auto-appending a query string that handled email address authentication to every link in the email.

    If you used both the query string and the tracking pixel I think you’d have all your basis covered.

  • Brian Paul

    There’s a strong proxy metric here if we look at pixel authentication of open rates for Mass Mail senders (Mailchimp, Sendgrid, etc)

    I think you’re onto something. Let’s build a prototype. ;)

  • TiansHUo

    I think that’s a terrible idea. A user could open the email by mistake, and email clients could download the image for offline mail. A confirmation mail without direct confirmation, is definitely a design mistake.