It’s no secret that a logged in user is more valuable to a company than a logged out user. A user must be logged in to receive a truly personalized experience, be a content producer, or make a purchase. The beauty of mobile is that once a user connects to an application, they are always logged in. We are beginning to see a movement toward this experience on the web as well.
Twitter and Facebook Connect have proven effective (yet imperfect) solutions for the “forgotten password” problem. Both are high-use products, meaning it’s likely a user is logged in to these services and therefore yours. Third-party logins help *get users over the wall*.
New product trends aim to *keep users over the wall*. In particular, Quora has been among the first to innovate in interesting ways around this concept, but they likely won’t be the last. Below are a few interesting things that signal a focus on keeping users logged in, and moving closer to an always logged in web experience:
1. Two-click logout is the new standard - It wasn’t long ago that three of the web’s favorite services - Facebook, Twitter, and Google - displayed a big “logout” link in the upper right-hand corner. Click that once, and you were out. In February 2010 Facebook began rolling out a two-click logout, where the logout link is hidden behind the “Account” drop-down. In September of 2010 Twitter made the switch, and in February of this year Google followed the pattern. The likely logic? Out of sight, out of mind. All these services aim to be platforms, and step one is keeping users logged in.
Facebook - February 2010 Update
Twitter - September, 2010 Update
Google - February, 2011 Update
Fun thing to try: Go login to Amazon and try to figure out how to logout. Now imagine what that task would be like for the average web user.
2. Two-page logout - Though not widely adopted (yet!), Quora has taken the two-click logout a step further. Although they make the logout option prominent in the site navigation, clicking does not actually log you out in the traditional sense. Rather, it takes you to another page, where you can click on your image to login, sans password.
When you return you’ll see this page. Click the image and you’re in.
Side note: When you return to Quora, the landing page shows your face. People like what is familiar, and nothing is more familiar than your name or face. This increases the likelihood the user will click to login and pass this stage of the funnel. It’s the same reason that putting first names in the subject line of weekly emails at Hunch boosted our open rates by 15%.
3. Infinite login sessions - Anecdotally I’ve seen most sites have login sessions of a few hours before they boot you off. When I logged off Quora, I got the below message telling me that I was still logged in on 27 (yes, 27!) browsers. As you can see, somewhere in Charleston, SC, I am logged in to Quora, even 17 months later. I must admit though - as someone who uses Quora every day, never having to login has made my experience more enjoyable. And they do give you the clarity and control that other sites don’t.
4. Login from email - Email is probably the single most effective tool in driving site engagement. But how many times have you gotten an email from a service, clicked on a link and then quickly closed the page because you didn’t feel like logging in? Quora allows users to immediately login upon clicking out from an email. Yipit does the same thing so that you can change your daily deal preferences. As a passive user who enjoys Yipit’s emails but rarely visits the site, I’ve enjoyed being able to quickly update my preferences without having to login. Of course, it would be difficult for a company that had a user’s credit card information to pull this off, but these sites could follow a similar model and only ask for credentials at the point of purchase.
Final Note: From a product perspective, the shift toward an always logged in experience will increase user engagement. As referring traffic from social sharing continues to rise, having an always logged in experience also increases the likelihood of serendipitous engagement. Keeping users logged in removes a step in the funnel from which a user can exit the site.
From a security perspective, I am less enthusiastic. But, if we look to history as the guide we’ll see that when these decisions come down to engagement vs. privacy / security, it is generally engagement that prevails in the market. Companies will push the envelope until the lack of privacy / security damages the user experience rather than enhances it.