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Top 5 Ways to Break Your Login Experience

l’ve been a Deli.cio.us customer for many years, and their browser plugin has been an indispensable tool for writing my book, Designing Search: UX Strategies for eCommerce Success. The plugin is still as delicious as ever, but the login experience has become a cloying, putrid Durian mess that became enough to justify the pain of 2 hours of migrating to and learning another service.

Don’t let your customers walk out on you. Avoid the following 5 issues in your login process:

1. Forgetting the “Keep me Signed In” feature.

Unless you are a financial firm or responsible for securing a nuclear weapons cache, there is no reason for booting people off your system after a short time interval. Provide a “Keep me Signed In” checkbox and let your customers decide how secure they want to be. Delicious manages not to provide the option to remain signed in. It also tends to log people off at random intervals, with or without on-going activity. To add insult to injury, the sloppily executed password form does not even fit the popup window!

2. Forcing login name that is different from an email address.

Delicious requires sign in with a username that is different from the email address. Unless you are the next eBay (where anonymity is a big issue) your customers should be able to login either with their email or userid. Unfortunately, Delicious just keeps giving the generic “invalid credentials” error when users attempt to use their email to login.

When registering people, really think about whether your service needs to force creating a separate Id your customers will be forced to remember, or would email alone suffice? Or how about removing a separate registration entirely and using the simple Twitter or Facebook signup API as @lukew’s Bagcheck.com has done?

3. Creating arbitrary password rules.

No, really. Go ahead and try it — see how long you will remain in business. Delicious manages to take the password interrogation torture to another level: not only do they require a certain minimum number of special characters, and numbers, but they limit the maximum number of special characters in your password as well:

Adding an extra click to see the (incorrect) password error make the cute little message so very not funny for delicious customers.

Doing this forces people to create and memorize a unique password just for your site. Annoying? Absolutely. Couple this with a frequent time-outs mentioned in #1 and in-frequent login to use the tool, and you can almost guarantee people will not remember their passwords, creating tremendous obstacle to use and constant pain for your customers.

Password guidelines should be exactly what they sound like: Guidelines. Your system should not place upper limits on the number of special characters, numbers and letters your customers can have. Unless you are E*TRADE, it’s not your job to be the password policeman. Instead, provide a visual security goal and let your customers decide how secure they want to be. Google and Yahoo provide simple, sane plugins that display a meter displaying password strength.

The added benefit of using the consistent set of rules, is that it will let people can re-use their favorite passwords, so they will not have to, as Winnie the Pooh said, “frequently remember to forget such things.”

4. Making them click to get to login form.

Delicious requires customers to click “Sign In” button to open the sign in form. This extra click is as irritating as it is unnecessary. If the customer timed out, just take them straight to the login form.

5. Disabling deep linking.

Following the login form, Delicious popup simply closes, forcing their customers to click the desired action button again. This is contrary to expectations, so people end up waiting for the action they initially selected to continue automatically. When Delicious fails to deliver, people begin to wonder if something went wrong, while getting annoyed in the process. If the customer wanted to do something useful (in the case of Delicious, add a tag to a website, for example), make sure to take your customers to the page where they can complete the task they started to do before they were interrupted with a password form. This is especially key for money-generating ecommerce workflows like Add to Cart and Checkout.

Give your key flows some love

Are you unconsciously creating any of these pain-points for your customers? Drop us a line and we’ll help you find out and work with your team to design a better experience. A bit of investment into UX Design of critical workflows will typically yields ROI in 10-100X range. We provide everything from inexpensive Usability Audits to custom day-long UX Design Workshops for your team. We integrate with your process and cover topics you care about most. Drop us a line today. For more ecommerce design insights, pick up my book, Designing Search. Rated five stars on Amazon.com. You can get a sample chapter here.


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