Balancing Security and Ease-of-Use When Creating Online Logins

One of the most valuable things about the internet is it enables us to perform transactions online—such as banking, purchasing or bill paying—at our convenience. However, with this expediency comes the necessity for transactional web sites to protect our identities. Identity theft scams, such as phishing, are at an all time high which has induced legitimate web sites to deploy more elaborate security measures (affecting registration and login processes) to protect people who complete transactions online.

As a result, an on-going challenge for web site developers is to balance secure login functionality with ease of use. Users don’t want to “feel” the complexity of the security measures being activated upon login; they just want to login at any time and enjoy effortless transactions. If a user cannot login, the visit is over, or at the very least, cut short.

In a recent online user experience study of a mutual fund shareholder site, 18% of the participants claimed they had difficulties logging in to their account. Users who were logging in for the first time thought they understood the process, but were often unsuccessful. Some comments included:

  • “Login was hard for first timer.”
  • “My login never worked the first time.”
  • “I will phone tomorrow because I was unable to log in for the first time.”
  • “Need to know how to log in to find it.”

This finding and associated comments suggest that the login process for this site should be explained more clearly and designed with the first-time user in mind. Instructions should be clear and demonstrative, and ideally interactive.

Following is a series of screen shots from a login demo for a major investment banking and brokerage services site, illustrating well-constructed, step-by-step interactive login instructions: merrilllynch1.jpgmerrilllynch2.jpgmerrilllynch3.jpgmerrilllynch4.jpg


For sites requiring the utmost protection for their users, a lot is involved behind the scenes with the programming and design of the login process. But, making it user-friendly is equally as important. Ensuring users experience a demonstration and clear explanation of the login flow will help increase successful transactions and maximize visitor retention.


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