I've had an ongoing conversation with a few people over the course of a few projects about the questions to ask when people sign up on the web or what hoops you make them jump through.
Ask most people what they need to know about user's and you'll end up with a list of information from the useful like name to the truly useless like job title or title. Give me one good reason for either. Are you going to be sending Mr John Smith or Dr. Sarah Jones a letter using their formal titles?
When it comes to things like Job Title, the reason I usually hear is that it'll be useful for marketing and demographics later. Maybe, but I've never actually seen that later come to anything. So I don't buy it.
If the signup form is the depth of your engagement with your user you might as well drop the pretense of a web application and go back to sending newsletters. Just don't do it. Ask your user the bare minimum number of questions you need to get them started using what your product does now and stop throwing up barriers to entry.
Aside from just the questions that are asked there are other things, the hoops almost every site makes you jump through before you can start using it. Probably the best example is the ubiquitous confirm your email step. Do we need to be doing this? In some circumstances I'll admit it makes sense, if your delivering content via email for example or signing up for a mailing list. Of course you want to make sure the user wants what you're sending them.
But for every other site, I'm not sold. It's just another step they have to take to start using your service and all the little steps all add up to users hating signing up for new things.
Also it begs the question, why even bother? For 99% of websites the only reason to make sure a user has entered their email address correctly is so that you can let them recover a password. You're adding the step for people that have lost their password and haven't managed to get their email right. That's going to be a fairly small proportion of your users; even less if you let login with their email address, then they'll know it's wrong anyway as soon as they try it.
Do we pander to the idiots or make things as quick and easy for everyone else? I'll take quick an easy any day.
I'm finding myself not just asking what any given field in a form is for and making it justify it's self, I'm trying to figure out how to get by without it. I'm leaning towards going beyond just the bare minimum and into the realm of how can I modify this service to work with even less.