Monthly Archives: September 2008

Better ways to login

Excellent post at Cooper Journal discussing Better ways to login.

The article goes into great detail discussing the pros and cons of issues such as what to use for a username and password retrieval. Then gives case studies of the solutions used by many leading internet sites. Then gives recommendations for the ultimate login system. To quote:

Some users genuinely prefer to use a username, others prefer email. The system should allow users to create a username or use an email address as their login ID.

Allow users to add as many email addresses as they like to their account. It gives them flexibility in communications and verification.

I like the flexibility this suggests, but I have always been a big fan of email address – it just seems the simplest solution to me (and you know I like simple!).

I remember conducting numerous usability tests on ISPs back in the day. At the time each service (Freeserve, BT, etc) required the user to create a unique username. This simple requirement often created quite a significant barrier to users continuing the registration process:

  • People would get very passionate about wanting a meaningful username and would spend a long time thinking about what it should be.
  • People would get frustrated when the username they wanted wasn’t available.
  • People wouldn’t know techniques for how to make a simple change to their preferred username to make it something unique.
  • If people can’t use their preferred username, i.e. the one they use for every other system, then they are likely to forget the username and rely upon the forgetten password process.

The article offers good food for thought and I’ll certainly consider it in more detail the next time I have to give recommendations on a login process.


Google are giving away millions for ideas

Google’s Project 10 to the 100th is promising to give away millions for people’s great ideas.

Why come up with your own ideas when you can get others to do it for you eh!

Iterative design alone can’t save us!

This was the subject of my slightly controversial presentation of this year’s OZ-IA conference. My talk wasn’t against iterative design, but definitely in favour of early stage contextual research to fully understand the user landscape in which you’re creating a solution for.

I am sure I’ll blog around many of the topics from the presentation in the coming weeks, but in the meantime my slides can be found at

There is also a streaming video of the presentation. The visual quality isn’t the greatest (I’m the dot on the stage). But the mixture of slideshare and the video will make it like you were there yourself!

Video can be found at – you’ll have to dig around a bit, I can’t give a direct URL, but I’m far the right of the second row of videos.

Mozilla Firefox 3: Upside-down tabs

I just installed Mozilla Firefox 3. Rather than all the excellent new features, the thing that really struck me was that the tabs were upside-down.

I wonder why they did it that way? I can see that the tabs have a relationship to the things above and below the tab area, but them being upside-down (and thus non-conventional) makes me stop and think about the tabs rather than doing what I was already doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting this is going to cause “real users” usability issues. Rather I think this is something that us in the usability design community will get deeply analytical about.