How Sites Label Account Access Navigation

One of the most important parts of the User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX) process — that is, mapping out all the pieces of information that will go on a web page or application screen — is deciding how to label the navigation. And one of the most important pieces of navigation for sites with user accounts is the link visitors use to access their account.

We’re currently working with one of our favorite big clients to redesign the dashboard for their customers’ account management site. These customer accounts include not just contact data but financial information, so the entire site is behind a log-in screen. Or wait: is that a sign-in screen?

And that’s just it; one of the decisions we had to make was whether to label this seemingly simple link “log in/log out,” “sign in/sign out,” or “log on/log off.”

There’s no final answer to this question in a UX Bible somewhere, so we conducted some quick research to see how other top websites labeled their account access navigation, and the results were interesting.

How Top Sites Label Their User Account Access Navigation

We reviewed 30 sites in 6 loose categories: Finance, Social/Sharing, Search+, E-Commerce, Entertainment and Media. Overall, 13 out of 30 (43%) used “log in/log out,” 16 (53%) used “sign in/sign out” and just 1 site (4%) used “log on/log off.”

But within categories, the results varied. Some were completely consistent, and others were less so.

Finance

This category included Mint, Bank of America and American Express. Three (3) used “log in,” 1 (investing site Vanguard) used “log on” and 1 used “sign in.”

Social/Sharing

There was a split here as well: 3 used “log in” (Facebook, Yelp, StumbleUpon) and 2 used “sign in” (Twitter and LinkedIn).

Search+

Total consensus here: all 5 use “sign in” (Yahoo!, Google, Bing, AOL, Ask).

E-Commerce

Ditto for this category; sites reviewed were Amazon, Target, Walmart, Sears and Gap.

Entertainment

Back to the splits: 3 “log in” (MTV, Gawker, Entertainment Weekly) and 2 “sign in” (Pandora, TMZ).

Media

Near consensus in this category, but unlike the others the consensus was on the side of “log in.” Four (4) out of 5 went this route: The New York Times, Politico, The Huffington Post and the Daily Beast. Only the Washington Post wants its readers to “sign in.”

(Want to see the raw data and list of sites? We put it in a public Google Docs spreadsheet, Account Access Navigation Labeling Survey.)

Our Takeaway

Depending on your site category, don’t assume there’s a clear answer to the best navigation label. See which one or two are most common and run A/B tests with users to see which one is used the most.

And one more thing: we noticed an increasing prevalance of Facebook Connect as a sign-in option across several sites, especially in the Entertainment and Media categories. If Connect continues to be adopted as a standard, don’t be surprised if both “sign in” and “log in” are dropped–replaced instead by “connect.”

Your Turn

  • What’s the label for your site’s user account access?
  • Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

Wondering what navigation labels to use on your site? Need help implementing and analyzing a user test? Innate can help with that; contact us today.

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