Logging in with Social Media Credentials...

02 October 2012

Currently on the large white board at work is a big brain storm with the title 'the next update to the IFES website should include...' And until today on that list was the options to log in with Facebook and Twitter. The thought process behind this was something like 'people only have to remember their Facebook or Twitter password, they don't have to set up a new account, everything will become quick and simple and shiny'.

And they were some of the thoughts that went through the heads of the team at MailChimp when they implemented Social Media login. However recently they pulled this option from their website.

Aarron Walters, head of user experience at MailChimp, has written a really interesting blog post about the reasonings behind this decision, which I encourage you to read, but I'll just pull out a couple of the points from it:

"...in May of this year, we added “Log In With Twitter” and “Log In With Facebook” buttons to the login form. Failure rates plummeted. From June 12-July 12 we saw 114,239 login failures—that’s a 66% decrease..."

"So that big drop in login failures? It was all caused by better error handling and copywriting. That’s it. It wasn’t the social login buttons..."

"As you add login buttons to a page, you also add decision points for users, while creating visual complexity in your design. The marginal gains in login rate are chipped away by the additional cognitive load you’re adding for your users."

"...Facebook and Twitter are good at security, but nobody, NOBODY, is perfect. Social login buttons delegate control of your users’ credentials to another service, rather than ensuring security yourself."

It's really interesting to see that, while adding the social media buttons did have some impact, login failure was reduced more by being a bit more helpful with your error messages and making it easy to get at the relevant important information.

Another point that Aarron makes is that you are tying yourself to these social media sites, and they have positive and negative press associated with them. One of the points he doesn't make is that you are also tying a user's account to that social media service, and occasionally social media sites die. Do you expect to see a login with Bebo or MySpace button on different sites? Should Facebook and Twitter die out then there is the potential for users to be stranded without their accounts.

I've got a lot to think through, the sign up and sign in process on the IFES website is one of them.

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