The best practices for users having trouble logging in are fairly well defined so it continues to amaze me how bad some sites actually handle this. Not providing a way to self-serve account login problems is simply a bad user experience. Let me give you two examples I personally ran across recently. I will not reveal the names of the websites to protect the guilty. The whole concept of authentication is a balance between preventing unauthorized access and not making it too hard for legitimate users to gain access. Many times users will go months if not years without entering login information. This can be due to the information being save in a browser/password manager or the user not visiting the website. So a method to get help with forgotten login information is critical.
Username Retrieval Bad User Experience
One bad user experience was for a loyalty rewards program that I signed up for at a place of business. I later tried to log in but I did not know my username since I had signed up with my e-mail address. So I clicked on the “forgot username” link and was taken to a page where I’m was prompted for my e-mail address and my password. I did not know the password and without the correct password, I could not retrieve my username. Loyalty rewards programs are hard enough to get people to use but making it hard to recover your login information is not going to help. Ironically I brought this up when I visited the business in person and 4 people in customer service all said the website is bad. Which begs the question as to why nothing has been done about it?
Interestingly I could reset my password by entering my e-mail address which sent me a password reset link. Once I reset my password I could then use the new password and my e-mail address to get my username. In this case, adding the password to the username retrieval added no additional security. If I have access to the e-mail address I can reset the password, so asking for the password to get the username was not needed. Just send the username to my e-mail address since the username is tied to an e-mail address.
Password Reset Bad User Experience
I am currently between jobs and therefore I am submitting applications online for new opportunities. I have been surprised and how bad the user experience at some of these job application sites. Many of them are a 3rd party company that “specializes” in handling the job posting and application process, that literally is the business they are in and yet they have a very poor user experience. The jobs I applied for were with Fortune 100 companies, so I’m sure they were paying well for this service.
In my case I had applied for a job previously, so my e-mail address was already attached to an account. However, since it had been several years I did not remember the password. Selecting forgot my password link prompted me for my e-mail address, which I entered. To my surprise, I was not sent a password reset link in my e-mail. Instead, I was sent my 3 security questions to answer, in an e-mail. Of course, I did not remember what I put down for my favorite restaurant 3 years earlier so I could not reset my password. Therefore I contacted support and was informed that they could not reset my password or e-mail me a reset link. The recommended solution was to apply for the job by creating a new account with a different e-mail address.
This is a staggeringly bad user experience and workflow design. Since the account is based on the e-mail address, me having access to the e-mail account proves it is me. Also not having any way for support to help users reset their account password shows a further lack of good user experience. Additionally, the answering of questions is an out-dated method of establishing identity and is not considered a best practice.
Website – The New Face of Business
For many people, a companies website and the workflows in it are the public face of the company. Having a poor user experience reflect poorly on the company. It will prompt users to look elsewhere if they have a bad experience. After all the money a company spends on building a website, it is a shame when it encourages users to look and see if there is somewhere else they can do business.
The Role of Platform Manager
In the digital world, these problems can be avoided, or at least found and corrected with a good Platform Manager. This is the person who will take responsibility to make sure users have a good expierence when interacting with your companies website or mobil app.