by anthony on 08/29/11 at 12:42 pm
What happens when a website puts their login fields in the upper corner of the home page? Users can easily mistake the login fields for a site search box and get confused. The upper area of the home page is not a good spot for login fields because it’s where users often go to do site searches. Search boxes in the upper corner is a consistent user interface pattern found across web browsers, websites and applications.
When users see a text field in the upper corner of a site, they’re going to assume it’s a search box. Putting login fields in that area could enable users to mistakenly type their search queries in a login field. Or, they could easily overlook the login thinking that the fields belong to a search box. What users need is a single login button that is clearly labeled ‘Login’ or something similar in the upper corner of the home page. This removes all confusion and allows the login and search box to co-exist without competing with each other.
There are certain sites that can pull off home page login fields. Sites that users can’t use without logging in don’t have the problem that other sites have. Facebook and Twitter use home page login fields because users have to log in first before they can use their service. Therefore, search is not a relevant or usable feature until after the user logs in. Most sites that display their content publicly will have users who search for content. Sites like these should opt for a login button that takes users to a separate login page or opens a dropdown login box.
Login fields aren’t the only culprits that users sometimes confuse with search fields. Email newsletter fields can also cause confusion when they’re placed in the upper corner of the home page. However, the upper corner is actually a good spot for email newsletter conversions. So if your site also has a search field nearby, it’s best to clearly label the search and email newsletter fields so that users don’t confuse the two. You may want to put the labels inside your text fields to make them absolutely clear.
Putting your login fields on the home page is not a faster login for users if they can easily mistake the login fields for a search box. Any delay, doubt or confusion caused by thoughtless design can negatively affect the user experience. Great user interface design is down to the finest detail. Save users the confusion and think twice about putting your login fields in the upper corner of your site.