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.

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One response to “Better ways to login

  1. Thanks for sharing the interesting Cooper Journal post. The key does seem to be the static system ID, that will enable the flexibility that people want and need.
    (although isn’t this the basis of all good database design? 😉
    Interesting too that people set up systems years ago thinking, ‘oh we can just let them open a new account’, (or maybe even encouraged it to bump up the numbers) but of course now with all the added ‘social functionality’, it means that all that stuff is lost. I wonder if LinkedIn are working on their system, because losing all that investment due to the inability to remember which email address you used seems staggering!
    On the other hand, I feel there is also some role for user responsibility.

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