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The Usability of Logging In

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/4/07 (12:17pm)

Emre Sokullu writes about the "big barrier" of logging in to a site and what companies do to make things easier:

Almost all the internet giants, like Yahoo, Google and MSN, use single sign-on across their properties to lower the threshold of accessing their services and to create a competitive advantage. The reason they do this is that signing up is actually a big barrier to entry for users of web apps. Users feel more comfortable when they don't have to sign up to use an app - it's much easier to give it a try and it's less time-consuming to start using it.

Great Interfaces Look Alike:

(more after the jump...)

"Big Barrier" is right. Most sites keep records of people siging in. All you have to do is go through these records to get an idea of the difficulties people have remembering their personal information even with relatively "standard" login requirements.


So what's 'standard'? Well, glad you asked. It's whatever everybody else is doing: email address or user name plus password.

The further you veer from 'standard', the more likely your user will have absolutely no idea how to access your site.

In libraryland this is something of a challenge since most of our systems work by a person's "library number". It's hard to emphasize how user-unfriendly this is -- how unlike any other authentication system the user is likely to encounter. The problem is only compounded by the fact that we're generally running multiple systems which in turn require multiple logins. No "single sign-on" here.

That's why the login on the Queens Borough Public Library Site is so fantastic: all you need is your username and password. Just like any site!

When developing systems, we need to work off of our users' strengths, building around things they're familiar with. Anything less should be a red flag.