wtf is up with this design pattern on web apps where there are huge text fields for username and password on the home page and so you type in your username and password only to realize that the button below it says "Create an account!" and then you have to hunt for the tiny "ˢⁱᵍⁿ ⁱⁿ" button in the upper right-hand corner in order to actually sign in to your existing account?

(answer: because the only kpi reliably communicated to ux and devs is the number of new signups and they don't actually care about providing the service of the application as much as they care about hockey puck user count graphs and gathering your data for resale and sending you e-mail newsletters)

@aparrish because existing users have already decided to come back, and a little discouragement is okay. new users won't sign up if they don't know how

@nightpool @aparrish what if it was the same form and the "sign up" and "log in" buttons were next to each other and the same size....

@shel @aparrish hmm. probably fine although I don't know if that's been studied as thoroughly as the normal link/form setup. gut feel says it's slightly worse because people are still gonna click on the wrong one by accident but not sure how much worse, could be negligable

@shel @aparrish @nightpool why have two buttons? existing e-mail signs you in, nonexistent proceeds to account creation.

Security-wise that would leak information of whether an email is already registered. Current design doesn’t pay attention to this either though.

@nightpool this is a reasonable explanation but it kinda makes me feel like I'm being held hostage by the app instead of like I'm a valued customer

@nightpool @aparrish it's transparent '''growth hacking''' bullshit, I hate it. treating acquiring users are more important than the needs of your current users is hands-down unethical

@martensitingale it's really, really not. it's just a consequence of when decisions get made for each type of user.

@nightpool yes, I think it's dangerous for services to try to maximize the size of their userbases, because it's both easy and effective to employ manipulative/coercive techniques in pursuit of that goal

@martensitingale I agree with you but a MINIMAL inconvenience for existing users compared to MAJOR drop-offs in new user sign ups is like, a very easy decision to make.

@martensitingale there's a huge leap from "it's easy to make costly long term trade-offs for short term growth" to "we should stop caring about the new user experience all together"

@nightpool the new-user experience is important, since every user will see it, but they only experience it once. I don't think there's at all a zero-sum exchange between ease for new and returning users (perhaps minimal tension, but having clearly labelled buttons for signup/login seems fine), but shoving a common workflow behind an extra page load (several seconds and a mental context switch) seems unnecessarily ungracious

@martensitingale there are no zero-sum exchanges in engineering. I agree that there are solutions that provide minimal tension, but those solutions are less reliable and well studied then "signup form on landing page and log in link"

@nightpool @martensitingale Do you know of any studies that look at the impact of such design on the fraction of users who visit the site and then are still active after say 30 days? My guess is that the impact is pretty small since the users who wouldn't spend even a little bit of time looking for how to register are probably very likely to just drop off after registering.

@seanl not off the top of my head, but common wisdom is that acquisition and retention have independent rates (so getting 5% more acquisition doesn't affect retention rates, and does have the expected absolute-numbers increase)

@nightpool If you just treat them as raw rates and ignore how you're achieving changes in the rates, then sure. But let's say 10% of users who visit your site register and 50% of those are still using the app after 30 days, so the funnel to 30 days is 5%. If you were to make registration automatic by just sticking a cookie on their machine so they didn't need to do anything at all to have an account, do you really think that would result in a 1000% increase in people still active after 30 days?

@nightpool @martensitingale i understand your underlying point but there has to be a way to optimize for first-time users that isn't incredibly frustrating for returning users. the two use cases aren't zero sum. also consider that i (and others like me) are less likely to even sign up for a service that obscures the existing-user sign in

@nightpool None of that addresses the fact that it's specifically irritating in an insulting way to existing users.

@deutrino if you choose to think your own pride is more important then having welcoming communities then I don't know what to say to you.

@nightpool Read the thread. Nobody actually LIKES this design pattern. It's near-universally off-putting. Metrics are not god.

@martensitingale @nightpool @aparrish if you use multiple devices / clear your cookies / otherwise don't have a login session, you are worthless

@riking @martensitingale @nightpool @aparrish

This is it. The optimal case for them is that you remain logged in and active.

@deejoe like mastodon, when I've been clear throughout this entire thread that we make that trade-off to help and support new users?

@deejoe if you think of Mastodon as the "them" that's doing things to "us" then I don't understand why you're even here.


But just a note--how this thread appears depends on how & when one comes into it, so what you think may have been clear maybe wasn't so much. I read a lot of people's stuff. Sure, I probably could have known you were a Masto dev, but that wasn't context I brought to my read of your early comments. The Masto-specific aspects of this have been secondary to me because I tend not to use its front-end, it having only part of the reason.

@nightpool What's more, I try to resist the notion popular in some corners of the fediverse that there's something ... insular, to try to put it kindly ... about the Mastodon portion of the fediverse. But it's hard not to credit that when comments about just one behavior of one web front end are conflated into a love-it-or-leave-it type of response. I use the Mastodon back end, because that's what the people who run our instance use, is the easiest way to put this.

@nightpool In short, I'm not trying to make you feel bad about this. It's feedback: This is a thing I dislike about so many web sites. So, this struck a nerve. This is a thing to which the fediverse's target user base is probably *more* sensitive to, since so many of us are more likely to do things to break the persistence of log in (private tabs, clear browser history, etc), so we encounter it more often across sites than the audience web developers typically target.

@deejoe I get that this can be a annoying behavior for people, and I respect that. but I guess I struggle so much with it because I expect people on the fediverse to be able to look past their own needs and see the needs of the community, and that rarely happens.

@deejoe I'm not saying the front end is love it or leave it. I'm saying you're approaching this whole conversation in a tribal, us vs. them way, and you have been since the very beginning when mastodon wasn't even on the table.

I tried to drive home how reductive and pointless that was by using mastodon as an example, and you responded by just getting deeper entrenched into your "outgroup" mindset.

@nightpool @deejoe I mean, isn't the whole argument that users' and developers' interests aren't aligned for this feature? Some people are in one group and not the other

@LogicalDash @deejoe having a platform that welcomes and supports new users is in everybody's interest.

@nightpool @deejoe I'm not sure I agree to that

Like, I don't think it's so great that still has open registrations at all, we should be directing people to other instances, reduce the centrality

You might disagree with me on that, but does limit the rate of registrations, prioritizing the needs of existing users over prospective ones. I think that's fine, makes the community easier to moderate

Perhaps new instances should have different login pages than established ones

@deejoe @nightpool I recognize a distinction between

1. welcoming and supporting new users
2. maximizing the uptake of prospective users

The former has to be primarily a function of the community's treatment of new users, which eg. well designed moderation tools can help with

The latter, well, it might be in your interest if your objective is to supplant Twitter, but not everyone cares about that

@LogicalDash you can't get to the first if you don't have the second though. it's a tale as old as Rome, or that 2005 phpbb all your friends were on. communities need to grow, or they die.

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@LogicalDash sure, "welcomes new users" doesn't necessarily mean supporting an unsustainable rate of growth, and having a NETWORK that makes onboarding easy doesn't mean individual instances should necessarily be open at all times. I don't think any of these really detract from the point I was trying to make.


Look. You can consider different classes or groups of participants, or not. You are doing it, I am doing it. The difference is I'm reporting directly on my own experiences and preferences, and you are speculating about what might be happening in a group you really aren't in. Sure, ok, you've taken on a responsibility to think about who design decisions might exclude, but that's no call to get so sanctimonious about it and start slagging me off.

Gonna mute this conversation because I've said my piece about this functionality. The rest just seems to be devolving into something not that useful or helpful to anyone.

@aparrish well I think there's a difference between "arriving on a site for the first time" and "going back to a site". retention is important and difficult to optimize for and deserves a lot of effort, but once you've literally typed into your web browser then like, you've already MADE the decision to come back.

as the saying goes, "acquisition happens on-site. retention happens off-site"

@nightpool @aparrish yeah, i....... also generally find this pretty irritating. ( especially on sites where, like, actually finding the log in part is difficult / requires typing in a different url. although they probably would rather you just ~stay signed in~. )


but, like, not irritated enough to, uhh, dooooo anything about it. 😣

@aparrish @nightpool same. but then most users use apps/auto-login, so they are usually never presented with that decision, i guess?

@aparrish This pattern, and the one where you show the username and password fields one at a time with a superfluous click in between are driving me crazy.

@darth_mall @aparrish this is usually/sometimes because of enterprise/single-sign-on integration

as in if you type your organization's email address and it sees the domain part matches an SSO integration, it redirects you to the SSO page

a click is a bit much, I agree. At least some pages still just let you tab

@aparrish At least _sometimes_ they're smart enough to just log you in if you just put in your username and password and click "sign up" but the ones that aren't... AAAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH

My guess: they expect you use Facebook/Google to log in so you're "automatically" authenticated and don't need the link.

Or they assume most people never come back.

The former may lead to latter.

@aparrish I have like five accounts on CamelCamelCamel because it lets you set up an anonymous watch, but then if you go to sign in it gives you a little warning that it will create a *new* account, and I only see that warning after LastPass autofills and I click it and WHY WOULD IT CREATE A NEW ACCOUNT WHY

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