Sites that require users to log in to access certain information and/or purchase products add an additional layer of potential complication to the usability process. To avoid potential visitor confusion and the possibility for errors, it is important that any login process requires little or no thought on the part of the site visitor.
Once logged in, you must be sure that visitors are able to find the information they want and expect to find. My Account pages need to provide visitors with access and ability to view and change personal information, as necessary.
Access to any login page (or the login form itself) should be available consistently across all pages of the site. Be sure the form or link is obvious and easily differentiated from other areas of the web page.
If the information behind your login contains sensitive data, you need to use the appropriate security protocols, assuring visitors that that you take their information's security seriously.
If visitors are not already registered a link to a new user registration form should be present. It's also smart to have a global link to "register" for any new visitors to the site.
Non registered visitors should be treated to benefits of account registration. This information should be located on the same page as the new user registration form.
All login forms should contain an option to reclaim passwords and/or username should they have been forgotten. This information must also be passed securely.
You can provide additional convenience (though less security) by giving visitors the option of checking a “remember me” box which will allow them to stay logged in indefinitely.
Provide a link to your sites privacy information/policy near the login form submit button or email field. This gives your visitors confidence that you will treat their information with respect.
The visitor's "logged in" status should be displayed at all times with a ready access to logout at their convenience. When additional security is necessary it's a good idea to automatically log them out after a set period of inactivity.
Once logged in, visitors should have access to change their user information, including usernames, passwords, contact info, payment details, etc.
Once the visitor has submitted their information to be changed, provide a confirmation screen that shows the old and new info. This prevents errors and helps insure information remains accurate.
Provide links to relevant financial information such as transaction history, invoices, balances, payment methods, etc. Provide printable version of this information.
Visitors that are logged in provide you an interested, captive audience. Consider discreetly utilizing up-sell opportunities - without being overbearing.
Provide visitors access to the information/services to which they are subscribed. Also provide additional subscription options, if applicable.
Allow users to change the way they receive information, providing alternate methods such as snail mail, HTML or text based emails or to turning off communication entirely.
When visitors create an account with you they are making a commitment to you to enjoy the services or information that you provide. It's important not to let the usability process break down after visitors are committed. In fact, it's even more important to treat registered visitors respectfully and appropriately, ensuring they have access to the information they need. This develops long-term relationships and keeps them coming back.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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