You sign in to sites more often than you sign up for sites. So, what would you expect to be most prominent on the home page of sites requiring you to have an account? The sign in part, surely?
Not necessarily, it would appear. Take the popular professional networking site Linkedin – the most prominent element on their home page is ‘Join Linkedin Today’. But you only need to join, or sign up once. You will probably want to update your profile or check your messages or carry out any number of other tasks that you can only carry out if you’re signed in, much more often. Where is ‘Sign in’? It forms part of the main navigation at the top of the page – it doesn’t exactly stand out, or make it easy for users to sign in quickly.
Similarly, on Twitter, prominence is shared between the ‘Search’ feature and ‘Sign up now’. Sign in is less prominent, at the top of the page, and you can’t fill your details in directly on this page – you need to click ‘Sign in’ to see the sign in fields.
Compare this to Facebook. The sign up area still has more prominence that the sign in fields, but the big difference here is that you can enter your sign in details directly on this page.
And then you have the webmail providers. Their sign in tends to have more prominence than their ‘sign up’.
But there might still be room for improvement. Take Ymail (Yahoo’s webmail). Whilst you are able to sign in directly from the home page, it is lower down the page than the ‘Sign up’ message, and it appears to have prominence on the page because of other strong elements on the page e.g. the ‘benefits’ information about Ymail.
There is less going on, on Google Mail’s homepage, which probably helps make the sign in area clearer and more prominent on the page (even if the ‘benefits’ of Google Mail do take up more space on the page).
Similarly, Hotmail’s sign in area is clear and prominent – perhaps more so than Google Mail’s. It is given equal prominence to the ‘benefits’ of Hotmail content.
A user’s experience on your site will be strongly influenced by how easy or difficult they perceive a task to be. By making it easy for the majority of users to carry out the popular tasks on your site, you are one step closer to providing a great user experience for all users.