'Close Account' options for web applicationsPublished on the 5th June, 2011
It's very rare that I come across a web app which allows me to close my account. Granted, it's not a feature you want to encourage people to use but if people want to stop using your app then they'll probably just abandon the account anyway. From a user's perspective I like to feel in control so being able to close an account, even if I don't chose to do so, can be quite reassuring. However, I think there are also some advantages for developers and stakeholders to benefit from by implementing a 'close account' feature.
First of all, you probably don't want to lose users - you want them to keep using your app and tell all of their friends. But sometimes things don't always work out this way, and although you may be getting lots of people sign up to your app, are they coming back to use it weeks or months down the line? Knowing how many new accounts doesn't really help unless you also know how many are leaving. Adding a 'close account' feature will give you an insight into how long people decide to keep using your app before they walk (and they'll probably do that whether you allow them to close their account or not).
You might also be able to get some feedback by adding a small form or comment box asking why they are leaving. If they are leaving because something isn't working as expected, they will probably tell you and you'll have a chance to put it right. By doing this it may also be possible to convince people to stay by making the process interactive, learning why they want to leave, and hopefully giving them the information they need to change their minds.
Finally, going back to my first point from a user's perspective - people like to feel in control. They may have created an account and misspelled a username or just don't require it anymore, and in an age where so much of our information is online, it reassures people that they can remain in control of their data.
I'd love to hear what your experiences are with building account closure features into your web apps and why you have or haven't chosen to do so. I don't think every app or site should (or shouldn't) have this feature, but these are just some possible advantages from a developer and user perspective. Please feel free to leave comments using the link below.