Social Design: a sign up pattern that helps (and one that fails)

Having people participating on your online (social) platform is something that requires often a lot of hard work and careful planning and design. One of the basic things to help people to participate is to make things really easy to start with. So make it easy to sign up, and once signed up, make it easy to login. For me personally Quora is the key example of making things simple. The login screen provides you with and option to either login with a dedicated Quora account, a Facebook account or a Twitter account:

Since most people have more than one email address, Quora makes even that question rather easy since it checks your email address while typing it:

Quora makes it real easy to get in and to participate. It makes it also real easy to logout and when you logout your session is remembered so that if you would prefer you could login instantly without having to type your password once again. If you really want to logout you have to do an additional step to terminate your session. Also Quora shows you with an overview of all other sessions that are active and which you could end as well.

However not every application makes things so easy. SAP StreamWorks has an anti pattern of participation, even though it is one of the few social bits in SAP’s ecosystem. SAP doesn’t make it too hard to login. Since you also choose to use your Google Apps account (which makes sense since it is a corporate environment) or your general Google account to login. However when you have to create a new account, you are all of the sudden slapped with a captcha which just makes it harder to sign up.

However the real anti pattern starts when you login on StreamWork with an existing account a new device. Since SAP prefers to make it a secure environment they decide to put an additional check in place before you can really use the application. However as many companies SAP confuses secure with hard to use. Since if I want to login I have to answer four questions which I have probably selected in the past (to be honest: forget completely about those questions) and there is no way of getting past these questions if you don’t know the answer.

Security is important, though don’t confuse security with making things hard to use. Captchas, additional questions or email address guessing don’t help in driving adoption. For me Quora is one of the scarce example of making things really easy and really user friendly. That is what you want to end up with: making sure there is no reason for the user to not sign up and to log in once again when he or she is coming back. Since if you don’t make it easy, people are most likely not going to use it, they can spend their time on better things than jumping through hoops.