Why Sign Up and Sign In Should Never Go Together

by on 04/08/11 at 4:09 pm

Do your users know the difference between “Sign Up” and “Sign In” on your website? The difference takes a while for most users to mentally process because “Sign Up” and “Sign In” look so similar. They’re two different functions, but the only visible difference is the prepositions they use. The difference is so small that using them together confuses users and forces them to think. When users have to think about how the two are different, it can slow down their performance, make them feel uncomfortable about taking action or cause them to choose the wrong option.

Another combination that makes users think is using “Sign Up” and “Log In” together. This combination is more distinct than “Sign Up” and “Sign In”, but it still has some similarities. They both start with different verbs and end in two-letter prepositions that begin with a vowel. Users don’t have to think as much when they see this combination, but they still have to think a little. And that affects user performance.

The ideal combination is one that allows users to quickly distinguish one action from the other without thinking. The more similar your actions are, the harder it is to tell the difference between the two. You can make your sign up and sign in faster for users to process by using action phrases that are completely distinct from each other. For instance, combining “Sign In” with an action phrase like “Create Account” or “Join Now” is much clearer because there are no similarities between the two. They don’t use the same verbs like “Sign Up” and “Sign In”, and they both don’t end in similar prepositions like “Sign Up” and “Log In”.

The more similar two actions are, the slower it is for users to decide on an action. Choose words and phrases for your sign up and sign in that look distinctly different from each other. This distinctness prevents mental conflict and allows users to see the difference between the two actions without thinking. This little detail might seem minor, but most designers are smart enough to know that even little details can affect conversion rates.

31 Responses to “Why Sign Up and Sign In Should Never Go Together”

  1. Shilpa

    Apr 8th, 2011

    Or instead of Create an Account you could consider ‘Join Now’…

  2. Aymeric

    Apr 8th, 2011

    So true. I am French and I always have to pause and think before clicking Sign In or Sign Up.

    On my website http://taskarmy.com I use “Register” and “Log in” which are equivalent to what you are suggesting.

    Thanks!

  3. cherouvim

    Apr 9th, 2011

    Great post as usual.

    What about “Log In” vs “Login”?
    Although Login is not a real word, it’s twice more used in the web and also Facebook uses it. So users are more likely to understand it.

    • Jordan

      Apr 9th, 2011

      I feel as though “log in” is a verb whereas “login” is a noun. Consider the following examples:

      “Use the form below to log in to your account”

      vs.

      “Please provide us with your login and password”

      Thoughts?

      • anthony

        Apr 11th, 2011

        Whether you choose to use “Log in/Login” or “Sign In” is not incredibly important. The key is to make your “Sign Up” phrasing distinct and highly focused so that it doesn’t conflict with your “Sign In” phrasing. The more similar they are, the more they conflict.

        • Jeff

          Apr 11th, 2011

          Good point here — just off the top of my head, http://twitter.com/ does a good job of using the same terminology, but visually differentiating them well. They also do a good job of describing the instances as being wholly separate.

    • Christian Bundy

      Apr 9th, 2011

      “Log in” is essentially a verb, while “login” is a noun.

    • Aysar Khalid

      Apr 9th, 2011

      This.

      I use, Login and Sign up. Lots of sites use this, such as Facebook.

      • Rawr!

        Apr 10th, 2011

        Login is fine if used to describe the text box where the user’s login information goes.

        If it’s used to describe the action a user must take to log in, which is what Facebook does with their Login button, it’s wrong.

        • Ben Hamill

          Sep 10th, 2012

          You cannot conjugate “login”. Do you say, “Hold on a sec; I’m logining.”? Sounds very unnatural to my ear. Thus, “Hold on a sec; I’m logging in.”

  4. Lydia Chicles

    Apr 9th, 2011

    nicely written, simple to the point comparison, thank you!
    Lydia Chicles
    @BoldTechTv

  5. Egypt Ernash

    Apr 9th, 2011

    Username [______________]
    Password [______________]

    (create account) (log in)

  6. Marcel

    Apr 9th, 2011

    Doesn’t “Both prepositions begin with a vowel” apply to all three examples?

  7. Tom van der Valk

    Apr 10th, 2011

    Incredible how little things like that can make a difference. I would vote for “Log in” and “Create Account”. You only create an account once, so I wouldn’t put that first.

  8. John S.

    Apr 10th, 2011

    Excellent article, Jordan. This is detail that most designers overlook. Some possible wordings to avoid what the article describes:

    **Create a new account wording:

    -Create an account
    -Create account
    -Register
    -New user?
    -Sign up
    -Join us!
    -Become a member

    **Existing users:

    -Member login (never used in combo with Sign up”)
    -Log in (never used in combo with “Sign up”
    -Members
    -Member access
    -Members only

    I agree that LOGIN is a noun, while LOG IN is an action.

  9. EugeneK

    Apr 11th, 2011

    Well done, totally agree with you. Even for web developer like me sometimes it is hard to recognize proper link name. Haven’t seen many of sign-in sign-up examples on the web but probably there are some.

    I use “Register” and “Login” for these cases. Names of operations you do like many things in computer world.

  10. Kelly Ryder

    Apr 11th, 2011

    Huh, I never thought of this. I guess it’s most convenient for those who don’t speak English as their primary language. But differentiating the two links like the third example really makes it obvious as to which link the visitor is meaning to click on. Great post!

  11. Gekkor McFadden

    Apr 11th, 2011

    I really like the background color of your webstation page. I think you should be encouraged, so keep up the good work. I think you are doing a good job helping people unfamiliar with computers like yourself to share their experiences and ideas.

  12. Mark S

    Apr 11th, 2011

    This article is very short sighted.

    Copy, like many other things, should never be considered on their own!

    http://carbonmade.com/ proves this perfectly, the sign up is a large call to action, while the sign in is a more neutral less visible item, with out copy surrounding them. Users revisiting will know where to look. New users will almost definitely notice the sign up first.

    The grand scheme is very important!

    • John S.

      Apr 14th, 2011

      Mark,

      You’re right, but very few sites employ this effective use of CONTRAST to distinguish between Sign Ups and Sign Ins.

      John

  13. Igra

    Apr 13th, 2011

    In our site in spanish we use Regístrate = Sign up and Accede a tu cuenta = Log in

  14. Sim2K

    Apr 13th, 2011

    Register / Login …. That works for me.

  15. Patricia Carvalho

    Apr 26th, 2011

    I totally agree and even more when you are a foreign user and english is not your first language. I usually prefer “Log In” to enter and “Register” or a similar word to fill the form and make a new account.

  16. Hei olen Annes Org

    May 3rd, 2011

    Amazing article, but why don´t you have a Facebook LIKE button? I wanna like it! Sharing takes one more step and is pain in the ass.

    Also where is “Subscribe to Comments” checkbox? I wanna be part of discussion, but why do you make it so tough to me?

    Cheers,

  17. Greg

    Jun 7th, 2011

    We use
    Sign In | Register

    Already registered users can then invite other users which automatically register them so they can sign in straight away.

    I like the idea of just entering your user name and password and the system simply registering you if you’ve not done so already or logging you in. Usability nightmare though!

  18. Obelisk

    Aug 3rd, 2011

    Adding some text below in order to make it clearer, I think.
    Something like :
    [Sign in] [Sign up]

  19. Jamila H.

    Apr 29th, 2012

    Does the existence of facebook/ twitter connect in some websites affects the chosen phrase, I think Log in is majorly used in those websites support the Fb/ twitter connect, or its just a coincidence ?

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