The distinction that ACT makes between registration and purchasing a ticket is extremely confusing. The distinction is meaningless for most attendees, and leads to people not realizing that they haven't actually registered.
I think for the short term, ACT should be changed so that account creation simply goes straight to the ticket purchasing page. Longer term, I think the internals should be changed to eliminate this distinction entirely.
The question is how to handle free conferences like LPW. This should probably be special cased with some sort of "free conference" flag in the configuration, so that instead of going to the payment page people are taken to a "confirm you will actually attend" page.
One of the main consequences of this change is that the pages which list attendees should only show confirmed attendees (people who've paid) rather than what they currently show.
I agree the current workflow is confusing, and leads to issues, like the fact that it is practically impossible to get an idea of how many people actually attended the conference.
There are some other cases to take into account:
Having registration lead directly to purchase will indeed make the workflow smoother and more straightforward for "normal" attendees.
Adding options to "purchase later" or "purchase only if talk not accepted" (for potential speakers, for whom the registration fee will be waived only if the talk is accepted) would definitely help with the special cases I mentioned above.
Also why someone with an Act Id must register to a conference to be given some admin rights like seeing the list of talks for
the said conference? One can help to select talks without attending the conference.
Andrew Shitov did a good job in the templates of ye2011 to make this a bit more clear. We can start from what he did and try to improve it.