Sunday, 20 February 2011

Dos and don'ts: Don't force user to login

When opening Android StumbleUpon app the user is greeted by this screen:

StumbleUpon Android app's starting screen.
Don't do this!
Forcing user to login or to create account before even getting a taste of the application is a major turn-off.   It is difficult for the user to judge if the app is worth taking the time for signup process if the user has not used the app or even the whole service before.

More after jump...

Even though it is true that StumbleUpon is more useful when user has an account and is logged in it is not mandatory. In StumbleUpon browser plugin user is offered stumble option without forcing logging in or signing up.

StumbleUpon Chrome plugin

It is clear that the StumbleUpon app should allow user to start stumbling without login first. Some app designers have got it right.

Maybe later... (RunKeeper)

RunKeeper also asks for login on the first page it presents to user but it has one critical extra feature: "Maybe later..." button. Pressing that button lets user start using the app straight away and hence evaluate if he or she wants to take the time to register an account.

Automatic account creation (Posterous)

Another example of good way of implementing the first page for an application that needs a user account is Posterous app for Android. Posting a blog post without an account doesn't really make much sense but what Posterus folks have done is brilliant. The app will automatically create an account on first post.

Posterous app's first screen.
No need to signup.

Using gmail account (Blogger)

Almost all Android phones are connected to a gmail account. It is possible to use that account for identification purposes. Google's services use that feature efficiently. When Blogger app launches for the first time it offers list of available gmail accounts. User selects one and accepts the app's acces right to it and the application has been logged in.

Google's Blogger app connects
to any gmail account that
has been setup in the phone

Hybrid (CardioTrainer) - Winner!

CardioTrainer (market link) app has the best solution to this signup problem I have seen so far.

How does CardioTrainer account creation and login work:

  1. When the app opens for the first time it shows the main UI straight away.
  2. The app has created an account for the user automatically without user having to interfere at all. User can use all features of the app.
  3. If user want's to create a permanent account that can be shared between devices the app's settings menu provides a simple way of doing that:
    1. Tap "Get Permanent Account"
    2. User is presented available gmail accounts and user selects one
    3. Using the selected gmail as an identifier a separate CardioTrainer account is created. Note: this app does NOT access any data in the gmail account. It is used only as an identifier.
    4. All local data is synced to server and existing data is downloaded and merged.

This approach has many significant benefits:

  1. No account creation needed before app use
  2. No additional account password to remember
  3. Very easy to use


Don't force user to signup or login to your app before he or she can see what your app is all about. There are many different ways of doing it. You just have to pick the best one. A StumbleUpon style blocking first screen will scare away or frustrate potential users.