OpenID Sign In/Up Processes on OpenID supported sites

Most sites today distinguish between the process of Signing Up – the user wants to register to the site/service and does not have a previous account (or wishes to create another account), and the process of Signing In – the user wishes to identify himself/herself with an already existing account on the site/service.

Whenever I reach a site that support OpenID I always try to see what is the process of sign-in/up with OpenID to the site/service.

I keep on seeing two distinct ways that are common in such sites/services (at least in the sites that I’ve visited).

The first, is to separate the OpenID handling to a different page. In that page the process of sign-in/up is actually the same. If this is your first time of signing in with your OpenID it will actually transform itself to a sign-up process and may ask you a couple of questions and may interact with your OpenID provider.

The second, OpenID is integrated only in the Sign-In screen. If you sign in with an OpenID for the first time you will actually get a sign-up process and you may be asked a few questions and have an interaction with your OpenID provider.

OpenID is still a bit confusing to most people and when sites/services that do decide on doing the right thing and support OpenID, sometimes, add additional complexity with either hiding the OpenID sign-in/up location or not showing it in the right places that users may go to since they are already familiar with the Sign In/Up paradigm.

I know that some of the considerations for some of these sites/services is to have OpenID support for those who actually knows about it and uses it, which they know they will search and find it eventually. On the other hand, they don’t want to scare off normal users that don’t know (yet, hopefully) or care about OpenID with this technical mambo-jambo.

The best place, of course, is to have OpenID in both the Sign-In and Up screens, if a user that do have an OpenID reaches any one of these screen the scenario of signing in for the first time (or not for the first time) will work no matter when he is. It can also be a separate screen but accessible from the sign-in and up screens and clearly indicated that if you have an OpenID account go here (with explanation of what is OpenID, of course).

I still think that we can find a balance between these considerations and still have a clean use-case of signing in and up with and without OpenID without breaking existing paradigms.

What do you think? How would use design these processes that will still fit to your site/service and still support in a clear and obvious way OpenID?

5 thoughts on “OpenID Sign In/Up Processes on OpenID supported sites”

  1. Hey Alex,

    Isn’t what you are doing with 3jw is similar to what myopenid.com referrals provides?

    The main concern I was trying to raise in my post is that OpenID is not the confusing part. OpenID is a piece of technology (or more specifically a spec) that doesn’t bother or needs to bother most people.

    Current sites confuse people with how to use it and that’s where we need to make a change in order for it to work.

    The main question here is, how can we explain OpenID in a single sign-in (or up) screen in a way that will not scare off new users (specifically users that doesn’t know what OpenID is and will probably never want to know).

  2. For the record 3jw was doing that before myopenid ;)

    With ScribbleHere the user signs up as normal, but through 3jw. So say I sign up using alex as my username, I am automatically created the OpenID alex.jwjwjw.com. Next time I go to ScribbleHere I only have to enter alex and ScribbleHere assumes alex.jwjwjw.com.

    The confusion is minimized a bit I think.

  3. Hi Bob, Thanks for downloading the OpenID Delegation plugin.

    Regarding the redirect, the default implementation that it usually considered when implementing OpenID support is that the site you are trying to sign into will go to the URL you have provided (in your case it’s your blog), look for the delegation meta tag and redirect you to that URL.

    If you are already signed in to your OpenID provider you will automatically be redirect back to the original site to which you wanted to sign in. If you are not signed in, your OpenID provider should present you with some kind of an authentication screen (usually username and password) and after you pass that you will be redirect back to the site to which you tried to sign in.

    That’s how it usually works. If, for some reason, one of the parameters you have placed in the OpenID Delegation plugin are incorrect it might wrongfully redirect you.

    Also, now all OpenID providers supports delegation. They should, but they don’t have to, so that may also be a problem.

    Can you please post here (or send me through my contact page the parameter you have put in the OpenID Delegation plugin configuration page?

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