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?