A Surprising Reason Why Website Logins Matter

by cv harquail on June 6, 2011

Why do we really need to log in to websites we use all the time?
Why do those logins really matter, to us personally?

Logins matter for three reasons– two that are predictable, and one that’s rather surprising.

1. Website logins improve the targeting of the site itself, in ways that benefit the organization.

201106061435.jpgLogins allow sites and the businesses/groups behind them to track who’s there and why, making it possible for them to focus content, personalize offers, offer visit-specific support, solicit feedback, invite you return, close sales, and more.

2. Website logins improve the targeting of the site in ways that have have some secondary benefit to us as customers.

I get some convenience, additional security, increased functionality, and more, that might be valuable to me in my relationship to that particular website.

But in the end, is there anything about a login that really benefits us, as people? Well, yes, actually.

Website logins help to create the feeling that we belong.

That we matter. That we’ve made it past the rope. That we are somehow special.  Isn’t that weird?

When we login to websites, we get the experience of knocking on the door, being recognized, and having the door opened so that we can enter.

Of course, to trigger a feeling of recognition and welcome, the login must be well-designed.

There is nothing more frustrating, or easier for creating resentment, than the unkind routines some websites put you through when you forget or (gasp) mistype your password.

(I find this particularly annoying, since I am a handicapped typist and struggle even with typing my own name accurately. That’s why I love the funny note on one of my iPhone apps that blames the tiny smartphone keys if a password is incorrect.)

Because the login is such a simple step, and the responses so routinized, it’s also quite easy to design the experience to be warm and welcoming. Thus, it’s quite easy to garner some subtle but positive vibes for your site- and for your organization.

Why think about website logins and sense of membership?

What made me think about the psychology of logins was not only Chris Tuttle’s post about Nonprofit Engagement: Why Website Logins Matter, but also my recent road trip up i-95.

There’s one state where the EZPass lanes are marked “Members Only”. This always makes me laugh (really, who thinks of herself as a ‘member’ of EZPass?). Also, though, I recognize that this makes me, an EZPass ‘member’ feel special.

Go figure.  The outcomes may be subtle, and the dynamics may seem silly at the surface, but remember–

It’s the little, micro-interactions–  like the website login — that can make the first positive emotional impression on your visitors.

Make us feel welcomed.

Make us feel special.

Treat us as members.

It’s super subtle psychology you can use to your advantage and to the advantage of the mutual project that we engage in on your site, together.


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Image: Toll Booth by JacobEnos Some rights reserved


Susan Macaulay June 7, 2011 at 4:18 am

Thanks for the reminder CV 🙂

cv harquail June 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Susan, I’ll bet that the redesign of SheRocks had you focusing on both the big picture and each of the tiny details that could combine to convey just the right vision, and feeling, for your online community. It’s pretty amazing what we can create when we challenge ourselves to make each piece & interaction expressive of the values we want to reinforce!

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