The Product Dude: Why you should prioritize the Sign In page
Everyone has had to sit through the Movie Studio logo reel before the start of movies. For a long time, it used to be the same boring (or beautiful) logo, over and over for every movie. The Warner Bros Shield, the Disney Castle, the 20th Century Fox Searchlight. They did change the logo over time but it remained the same for all the movies they did, till they changed it again. It didn’t affect the movie, nothing was amiss and no one complained. But by the mid 2000s a new logo reel trend popped up. Every movie had it’s own unique version of the Studio’s logo. Though this had been done before, it was a rarity. The Disney Castle had a pirate flag for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Warner Bros, who had always been innovative in the past, got more enthusiastic with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for which the WB Shield was made entirely out of shirt buttons. The 20th Century Fox Searchlight went dark with storm clouds and lightning in the background for The Day After Tomorrow. This quickly became part of the movie experience. The logo reels were no longer boring and they began set the tone for the film that was to come.
Something as insignificant as a logo reel now enhanced the movie experience by impressing the audience straight away. The importance of this dawned on me as we were in the process of designing the sign up/sign in page for the PipeCandy app. The initial design was simple and straightforward. It was neat and easy to use. Nobody would complain about it and it would take little time to complete.
But no one was going to be impressed either. In the mad rush to finish the product on deadline, it’s easy to overlook the sign up page. Everyone knows how it works and nobody is expecting it to be exceptional. But just like the logo reel, it sets the tone for the app. It is the user’s first interaction with the app. They aren’t going to be on that page for more than 30 seconds and a ‘normal’ experience isn’t going to set them off, but if you can give them even one “That’s cool” moment, they might be ready to forgive some of your shortcomings on the app. We have all heard this a million times before, it’s all about the first impression. As cliched as it sounds, the first impression really does matter and it is important to capitalize on it.
And it’s not just about the design, but every bit of content that goes on there. Case in point – the error message for blank fields. It started off pretty well with “Oops, looks like you left Last Name empty.” But when 2 or 3 fields were blank, you had a repetitive “Oops” message on the screen and it looked (apologies in advance for using this millennial term) wannabe. Like we were trying too hard but had only one quirky line so we’d just use it everywhere. Now maybe a simple “Please fill in Last Name” would work for all fields but it leads us back to average vs. exceptional. So, I finally decided to go with unique error messages for each field. Now given that the impact of this error message might not even be seen on most visitors because they generally fill up all the fields, it’s also fair to question whether it is actually worth the time.
However, in the quest to be exceptional and unique, it is equally important to ensure you don’t end up overdoing it or screwing it up. A few days back, when I was discussing this with the CMO, I happened to be signing into Trello. He noticed that the username field was weirdly smaller than the password field on the login screen. Since both of us use Trello extensively and the app itself is quite awesome, it didn’t bother us much. But the impression that I got from that was that someone in Trello wasn’t paying attention to detail or they thought this was something different. If it was the latter, then the idea was a poor one because it ended up looking like someone had made a mistake while designing the UI. Trello, being an established app, would hardly be affected by this because they have a good reputation and about 10 Million existing users. But an app that’s just starting out might just end up setting the wrong first impression and that could prove costly.
Moz has a sign in page that gets everything right. Sign in to the app a few times and you’ll begin to realize that the sign in page wishes you Good Morning, Good Afternoon or Good Evening according to your time of the day. It’s subtle and warm and you’re quite pleased as you begin your day on Moz. That’s exactly what a sign-in page should do and why you should be prioritizing it initially.
So what did I learn from this whole train of thought? That prioritization is bloody hard and everything makes a difference to an app no matter how routine or insignificant it seems.