Should we be using Social Logins over the traditional process?


Oliver McGough

June 26, 2014

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65% of consumers prefer social logins to forms. The statistics are hard to disagree with.

Logging in has always been the bane of the browser (the human browser that is). Trying to access a piece of content, only to be halted by a collection of input fields. Input fields that will invariably lead to yet more spam in your email account. Even if we use our spam email account, how will we remember our login details next time around – spam account or normal account; normal password, or the password that has to have 5 non-alphanumeric characters.It’s a pain, and unfortunately an experience us UX designers can’t entirely eradicate from the web. Logins are needed to protect our sites from undesirables, demanded by our marketing department, and to provide better experiences to individual users.

A few of years ago, in stepped the Social login. A means to login through your social networks – your Facebook, Twitter, Google, or other account. No longer would we have to face form fields again. No longer would we have to remember a multitude of usernames and passwords. Everything centralised, everything simplified. Sign in with just the click of a button.

Social Login


Blue-Research’s study is hard to ignore, the results are overwhelmingly in favour of Social Login. It is hard to disagree with. Not only do 65% prefer social logins, but 60% believe that companies offering social logging are more up to date and innovative; not only do they benefit the user, they benefit your brand.

Logic, and these statistics, dictate that social login is a no brainer. However, take this information with a grain of salt. One survey-study can not be wholly believed until we see this concept in action, and for this we move onto MailChimp’s experience of going social.



In 2012, the UX designers over at MailChimp realised 100,000s of users were stalling at the login screen. Forgetting their username, password, or both. Their solution? To switch to social logins. Moving everything to the click of a button, and centralising people’s accounts by tying them all to one social network.

The result? A 71% decrease in failed login attempts, and a 42% decrease in password resets. Success was so simple!

Or not. Further insights showed that just 3.4% of users actually made use of MailChimp’s new social logins. On top of this, their CEO declared that he felt the logins cheapened the experience, devaluing the brand and cluttering the page by using Facebook and Twitter buttons.

In fact the whole change came about via better copywriting and error handling introduced with the change, read more here.

The pitfalls of the social login

Though users may perceive social logins to be easier, they’re potentially extremely harmful.

Login is reliant on a third party. Who do the accounts belong to, and what happens if/when that third party disappears? A third party that:

  • Could dissolve at any point, out of your control.

  • Could suffer a security breach, out of your control

In addition to this, your site advocates that third party. When opinion slips on that third party – as we’ve seen with Facebook in the past – yours will suffer. If sudden privacy scares have people running from Facebook, they’ll no longer trust their account on your own site which exists only through Facebook.

It doesn’t matter if the user believes they are getting a better deal, if they don’t actually receive one.

Are forms, and the complex mix of usernames/passwords here to remain?

This is a question with many answers. In short: Yes.

We are always going to have to suffer the username/password combo, if only for the sake of our own security. There are though ways in which us UX designers can improve the experience of such situations, ensuring conversions remain as high as can be.

Improved Copy/ Error Handling


This is what MailChimp discovered to be the real game changer. By changing their errors from “username/password incorrect” to specifying whether it was the username or password that was incorrect, users could better identify where they were going wrong.

53% of users have 5+ usernames/passwords. If a user has 5 usernames, and 5 passwords to choose from, that is 25 combinations. By reducing the number of possible combinations we ensure a resolution can be found quickly, and before they are locked out of their account!

Social for Mobile


Filling out forms takes much more time and effort than they would with a proper keyboard. The mobile world is quick and easy, and with mobile users owning an average of 25 apps that’s a lot of accounts to remember.

Social logins ensure you can breeze through the login/signup process. Thus why it’s no wonder it is the go to method for a plethora of apps: from Foursquare to Duolingo. Mobile users are fickle and will quickly move onto the next big app. It is easier to jump ship, to your ship, if the lengthy signup process has disappeared altogether.

If possible, remove the signup process altogether


Rather extreme, but extremely effective. In the ecommerce world, a user’s motivation to buy a product is directly proportional to their desire to fill out a form.

If a buyer reaches the end of the checkout, and is forced to sign up before confirming their purchase, you provide them with one final chance to make their decision. They will only sign up if they really want that product. You give them a chance to change their mind.

The process has to remain, quick, simple, and streamlined to ensure conversion remains at the top. This is where the $300 Million button comes in.

  • “They took away the Register button. In its place, they put a Continue button with a simple message: “You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.”

    The results: The number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. The extra purchases resulted in an extra $15 million the first month. For the first year, the site saw an additional $300,000,000.”

In the same vein, ASOS managed to halve their abandonment rate by removing the signup prompt altogether. Instead users were registered without being told so.

For ecommerce especially, signups should be an optional step in the process. Selling goods, making money, is the number one priority.

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