If you were going to design Flattr’s sign-up process, is this how you’d do it?

The core idea of Flattr is great. You define a set amount of money each month (say $5) to tip content creators. Then, whenever you see something you like, you click their Flattr button and they get given a slice of your monthly quota. The size of the slice depends on how many people you tip that month – the more you tip, the less each individual gets. The concept is a bit weird at first, but if you think about it, the idea of a single-click micropayment tool is actually quite compelling. There’s no stop-and-think “how much should I give” step. There’s no worrying about hitting or going over your quota. You can click away with reckless abandon, in the same way you’d tweet, like or share content.

It’s somewhat similar to giving coins to a street busker – the exact amount really doesn’t matter to you, but the fact you’re giving something at all can have a big impact in aggregate with everyone else. The potential is huge if Flattr gains critical mass, but they simply haven’t got there yet. They’ve only logged 118k tipped items since they launched in March 2010. So why hasn’t critical mass occurred? If we take a closer look at their sign-up and ramp up process, you’ll see that user experience is clearly an important factor.

Instead of giving you my opinion, I’m going to pose this as a question – if you were going to design Flattr’s sign-up process, is this how you’d do it?

Above we have the Flattr homepage. Note that the main proposition displayed (“Get paid for your work…”) is aimed at publishers, not readers – while readers are likely to vastly outnumber creators (the 1% rule). With this in mind, and looking at the 3-step walkthrough, what do you think they’re doing wrong here?

If the user clicks the “sign up now” button on the homepage, they end up here – a standard looking sign-up form. When the user registers, they are sent an activation email, which they then need to click, and then are taken to a blank login form which they have to fill in. They are then taken to the page below.

Above you can see the interstitial instruction that they are taken to. There’s a lot of information here, which they are meant to consume before proceeding to the dashboard.

Finally the user gets get to the dashboard (above). The wizard has ended, and now the user is free to explore and do whatever they want using the interface. But there are still some highly important actions required. They have to put some cash into the system, and set their monthly quota. In case you’re wondering, the items in the orange box at the top-right of the page are not clickable.

Another issue to be aware of is their lack of a viral strategy right now. If I take the time to register on Flattr, I can then only give money sites that have already been set up for Flattr by the site owners. I can’t, for example, email you a tip via Flattr, and in doing so give you a compelling reason to sign up for the service.

So, there we have it – a brief walkthrough of the Flattr sign-up and ramp-up process. I’ve actually spoken to them and they’ve told me they’re very interested in taking on board feedback from the UX community. Please add your comments below to help shape what could be a great micropayments system.