Does Your Log In Make Them Drop Off?

Error-handling is one of the most often overlooked pieces of usability and conversion optimization. We can become so focused on cart button design, home page layouts, featured products, promotional offers, email subject lines and the like that we forget that the biggest points of friction are when the customer inputs something incorrectly in a form field. When customers don’t understand what they did wrong or how to correct it, they abandon your site. And this kind of site abandonment is more damaging than “that price was too high” or “I didn’t find the product I wanted.” When someone abandons your site because it was difficult to use, they are far less likely to have the faith to return again.

One common place of friction is with log in screens. While you should absolutely use guest checkout whenever possible to reduce the need to sign in, it’s inevitable that existing customers who want to track orders, view wishlists, write product reviews and participate in your user community will face the dreaded log in box. And unless they have the memory of an elephant, they’ve got a good chance of forgetting the username/password combination (especially if you’re a stickler for strong passwords, requiring numbers or other special characters).

The worst practice is to tell the user their login information is “invalid.”

Equally bad is to say the login “didn’t work.” Sounds like a system problem rather than an input error.

Better is to explain that the address entered does not match account records. This way, the customer understands it’s not that the system doesn’t believe the email address itself doesn’t exist, rather that it was not the email address the customer signed up with.

Target goes the extra mile to provide inline feedback and a detailed explanation of how the user can remedy the situation, including checking out with their Amazon account instead. (Problem is, folks don’t remember their Amazon account info either!)

Bad practice is to use red notification text, but to make it really small, or to camouflage it below the login box:

Can you read this?

Login screens are not the only place your visitors may be experiencing frustrating errors. Make sure you explain what the CVV is if you use ask for it, and explaining what format you require for telephone numbers, postal codes and password creation.

Your web analytics will show you which pages have high exit rates. Examine top exit pages that have input fields that may require tweaking.

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16 Responses to “Does Your Log In Make Them Drop Off?”

  1. Another thought provoking article. Our website is by no means perfect, but we have put a lot of effort in to making the login / register and checkout easier. We make it clear that something has gone wrong, but given your advice, I think we probably need to tone it down and make it a bit friendlier.

    We will continue polishing….

  2. I like the suggestion at the end about checking your analytics for pages with input fields which have a high exit rate.

    I would take this further and suggest trying to track the error messages themselves.

    If you’re using Google Analytics, I would recommend using virtual page views for this, rather than events. At the moment events don’t appear in funnel reports. So if you opt for virtual pageviews you will have the benefit that the errors will show up as abandon routes on the right hand side of your checkout funnel report.

    I’ve gone into more detail on this approach here (if you’ll forgive the self-promotion):

    http://www.cxfocus.com/index.php/google-analytics-tips/google-analytics-visitors-bad-experience/

  3. Matt Owen says:

    Great post Linda, definitely one of the most frustrating things online. Businesses need to learn that if I can’t access their services, I’m not going to use them – check-in and out need to be streamlined and hassle free. We published a report on this a while ago that might be interesting (yep, more self-promotion I’m afraid!) http://bit.ly/9fWjDI

  4. Alvin Tan says:

    Perhaps it would be wiser to just let people sign in via Facebook Connect. Problem solved.

  5. Loved this article. That initial login screen sets the whole tone for the continuing conversation with the user; important to get it right.

    Caroline Jarrett
    Twitter @cjforms
    co-author: “Forms that work: Designing web forms for usability”

  6. Shawn Hakimian says:

    Remembering the users email is always good. Most sites keep you logged in unless you log out, which is risky if you’re holding the customers credit card on file.

  7. Great post Linda,
    I’ve been working on a way for site owners to at least know when visitors on their site see these sorts of errors. (I think the biggest problem is most web-site owners don’t even know that their visitors hit errors, much less how many times they hit errors).

    Tim has good advice on the “virtual google analytics” page. At Olark (http://www.olark.com) we take this a step further, every time a visitor hits an error during checkout we receive a message (over IM) with the text of the error “i.e. credit cart failed due to CVV check” and we have the opportunity to ask the customer if everything is going OK, or recommend alternative payment methods (i.e. paypal).

    We’ve saved many lost sales just by knowing when a visitor is having a problem, and being there to help them through it.

    It is definitely important to be able to make sure errors (anywhere in the checkout process) are not causing problems.

    (we also monitor password reset emails sent out)

    Thanks again for the great article
    Ben Congleton
    CEO, Olark.com

    • Stuart says:

      Hi Ben,

      After reading your post I a look at Olark and tested it out, very impressive! Could you explain how to set the system up to send these payment page errors to the chat ? Or does it happen automatically ?
      Thanks,
      Stuart

  8. Good idea about password resets, Ben. They are a huge cause of friction on many sites in my experience. If you have the resources to monitor that and follow up I suspect this would be a great way of building loyalty.

    It occurs to me that making the reset email a short autoresponder series which sends a second “If you’re still having any poblems PLEASE call us” email a few minutes later and gives a toll-free number would be worth trying.

    Tim

  9. yes! this is definitely overlooked! people don’t realize how much usability has an impact on ROI!

    I am reminded of all those errors microsoft spit out.. “error #341232″..

  10. Ricardo says:

    Linda, is that really how you feel about using Facebook Connect on a e-commerce site? I was about to add that functionality to my store thinking it will allow easier registrations. Now I am wondering if people are going to have the same feelings as you do :(

    • Personally, I don’t want my shopping habits posted to Facebook. I think many others share that view. You could try adding the functionality, if you can, split test it, if you can’t, keep a close watch on metrics like Bounce Rate.

  11. Excellent, I agree with this nice post on Log In and signup. Thanks for sharing this Information

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