Danger of Putting Login Fields on the Home Page

by 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.

Danger of Putting Login Fields on the Home Page

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.


Danger of Putting Login Fields on the Home Page Danger of Putting Login Fields on the Home Page

Author and editor-in-chief of UX Movement. Loves great web experiences and fights for the user.

8 Responses to “Danger of Putting Login Fields on the Home Page”

  1. Frank Neulichedl

    Aug 29th, 2011

    I like your approach when it comes to login buttons + search box but disagree that most public site would like to have people search for content.

    In my opinion 95% of the websites don’t need search if they have a decent content structure.

    Most site search is implemented badly and doesn’t deliver. And finally I place the searchbox in the center of attention if the site has a large content section which is rather searched then browsed.

    • Nicolas Bouliane

      Aug 30th, 2011

      I gotta agree with you. The only useful place for a search box is on a 404 page, especially on a blog. Oftentimes, the user will come here from another site looking for specific content.

      If you correctly label your fields, you shouldn’t require a user to click twice, if it even represents a problem.

  2. Anuraj

    Sep 5th, 2011

    I feel that “search” is a great tool to get your tasks done as quickly as possible…doesnt matter how well the information is architectured….this tool should be available on most of the sites (specially content oriented) and should be intelligently designed.

  3. Alanski

    Sep 6th, 2011

    But what does testing say? If a user comes to a sure to login they have a darn good motivation to do so. It sounds like a mistake they would make once our twice. However if you are coming to search then hittingg logins thats different.

  4. Ulrik

    Sep 6th, 2011

    I strongly disagree with the notion that “websites don’t need search if they have a decent content structure”… I work with several government, university, hospital and other big websites, and despite some of them has the greatest navigation and structure iv’e seen on websites – a good content structure simply can’t outrun a search function with that amount of content.

    I like the observation in the article, not only because you don’t make the mistake of typing search in login field and vice versa, but it allows for a seperate login page, that frequent users can user undisturbed by other content, and even easier and faster….

  5. Tom Coombs

    Sep 9th, 2011

    I (obviously) agree that sites shouldn’t be so badly constructed that they need search, and also that search shouldn’t be so badly implemented that it’s useless.

    But these failings shouldn’t drive the decision. We should ask whether the user wants/needs search, or the content demands it.

    - Many users have a natural preference for searching rather than navigating.
    - As Nicolas says there are use cases where the user is looking for very specific content.
    - Some content is well suited to search as Ulrik says. I’d use Google (search) as an example. It could be a navigable directory (Yahoo once was).

  6. maureen

    Sep 9th, 2011

    Hello – just wanted to leave a comment to say i just discovered your site, and it is fantastic. Thank you!!!

  7. Andrew

    Nov 25th, 2012

    I just think it’s weird some designers are still cramming these elements all together given the display resolutions that have been available for the last decade, let alone media queries.

    Whether or not if user utilize the search bar, it should be large and designed properly (most have already learned going up to the browser bar and using Google to search the site is better than the site’s search itself, but eh, that’s what happens when everyone spends millions of hours building out open-source technology that solves issues for all to enjoy that giant companies ignore for some multi-million dollar piece of garbage… WebSphere anyone?!). And if users have to search quite a bit, it’s a sure sign your navigation is crap.

    Or, if you’re like many businesses, you just sell too much crap. Anyone ever wonder why Best Buy’s website has always been garbage and gets worse every year? Of course you didn’t! Everyone’s been on there wondering why they have 390 monitors for sale, but none that don’t suck. Simplicity is making its comeback, and don’t worry, it’s brought a properly designed search function with it!

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