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Is there any research in this area, it seems "Sign in" is more common and hence more recommended.

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I rather use Log in/out and register instead of Sign in/out and Sign up. The Sign xx notation seems confusing to me. –  BrunoLM Aug 30 '10 at 11:35
    
It's really hard for a non native english speaker to distinct sign up/sign in/sign out so I'd suggest to go for sign up/log in/log out. –  Zhouzi May 7 at 5:43

11 Answers 11

While I don't have a very strong opinion here, I would bear in mind:

  • Sign In and Sign Up are quite close.
    Users might click one instead of the other sometimes.
    Either you make the difference more evident by location or graphics, or you could also use "Register or "Join" instead.
  • Make sure you stay consistent with the log out vs. sign out.
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Dan's answer is pretty complete, but I'd add one more detail: "Log in" is a valid verb where "Login" is a valid noun. "Signin", however, isn't a valid noun. On the other hand, "Signup" and "Sign up" have the same relationship, and if you use "Log in", you'll probably use "Register" as opposed to "Sign up". Then there's also "Log on" and "Logon", and of course "Log off" or "Log out". Errrr. –  Rahul Aug 30 '10 at 8:12

I agree consistency is key.

This means not just consistant within your own site but with the general web (if its a web based app)

I believe you can't be too far from the 'norm' following the example of google, yahoo, etc.

Google: Sign Out, Sign In, "Create an account"

Yahoo: Sign In, Sign Up "Create new account"

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In "Homepage Usability", Jakob Nielsen (together with Marie Tahir, 2002, p. 53) recommends the use of "sign in" / "sign out" over "log in" / "log out". This is empirically based on a survey of several large-scale websites and thus supports OP's "more common" argument.

Furthermore, I second @Dan Barak in that you should use "Register" or "Join [your-service-here]" as opposed to "sign up" in order to avoid unnecessary confusion. (I cannot recall whether Nielsen and Tahir had any recommendations regarding this issue, though.)

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I agree there is confusion with the Sign in and Sign up, I rather use register instead. –  BrunoLM Aug 30 '10 at 11:39
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I guess the survey was targeted to english native speakers, because phrasal verbs are by far the most difficult thing to grasp for foreigners. To me, the difference between sign up and sign in is small. –  Luca Molteni Jul 3 '13 at 16:33
    
"and thus supports OP's "more common" argument." What does OP stand for? –  Tim FitzGerald May 10 at 4:38
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@TimFitzGerald Original poster; E.g. the person who asked the question. –  API-Beast May 10 at 23:16

Here's a good overview on how a few popular sites are using Sign in, Log in etc. Login/Logout vs Sign In/Sign Out vs Log in/Sign out – A short roundup

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Interesting that most of their URLs go to /login even though the words of the link say "Sign In". I suppose /sign_in is a little unwieldy as a url. –  Brian Armstrong Oct 2 '11 at 7:17
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Or perhaps the developers think in terms of "log in" but the interface designers think in terms of "sign in." –  arlomedia Nov 12 '12 at 23:44
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Since the server seems to be down: cached archive.org version –  CodesInChaos Feb 4 at 19:43

Just on a gut feeling - I would rather prefer using "Sign in", "Sign out" and "Register/Join/Create account" variation over "Log in".

Mostly because "Logging" something does not really convey the meaning of "entering" quite the same way as "sign in" does.

I can log any daily event, but that is just a mention of a fact while when I sign in at the door of an office building, I am giving my signature that I have entered the building and when I "sign out", I am also recording the fact that I am leaving the building...

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+1 - I would also go as far as to say that it 'sounds' a little bit more secure to "sign" into something; people are quite used to signing things safely in the real life. –  Mooz May 25 '11 at 23:24

As long as you use "sign in" or "log in" as opposed to "login", I don't think it really matters that much. Users understand both terms equally well from the results I've seen. I've never seen a person confused with where to log in when it says either term.

Definitely be consistent with log in/out or sign in/out either way. I'd also use register instead of sign up unless you have a good reason to use the latter; sign up and sign in are very similar at a glance.

Before anyone says anything about it in comments on this, login (and logon, logoff & logout) is bad because it is an adjective, not a verb. You don't login, you log in on the login page.

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@Rahul already made this comment to @Dan Barak's answer :) –  jensgram Aug 30 '10 at 16:05

Since neither users nor sites really think about the action as signing or logging, "Authenticate" may be a useful alternative.

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But do users think of themselves as 'authenticating' when they're signing in to a website? I would have thought that this is even further down the list of things people think of doing than 'signing' or 'logging' are. –  JonW Jul 3 '13 at 13:10
    
I personally think of the process as authentication (as opposed to authorization or signing), so there is at least one. The other terms are only familiar through previous presentation in this context. Signing your name at the end of the form is not analogous as it is for authorization, not access. Some OS settings, mobile apps, and bank sites have even switched to a "lock" metaphor. You essentially unlock (and sometimes authorize as well) through authentication. –  Peter DeWeese Jul 3 '13 at 13:32

Its a way of saying mostly. Logs are basically defined as "record of observations" so by logging in it defines to check your credentials from a log. Sign in on the other hand sounds more sophisticated but less trendy.

The choice ultimately is yours ;)

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How about "Authenticate" and "Terminate Session"?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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Why these terms? Are they well known? Do users respond well to them? Are they in common use? We'll need more information as to why you're suggesting these options. –  JonW Jul 3 '13 at 14:28
    
Those are accurate and widely used terms for software developers. Which is why I recommend that developers read The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity amazon.com/The-Inmates-Are-Running-Asylum/dp/0672326140 –  Jayfang Feb 4 at 12:06
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i can't actually think of anything worse from a users perspective short of using hex codes or something ! –  ColinSharpe Mar 1 at 16:43
    
I'm just laughing at the poor guy's username. –  Matt M. Jun 17 at 8:20

As a fairly old Englishman I've grown up understanding that signing up meant you were entering some kind of contract requiring your signature. Often these contracts or agreements had some legal obligations attached so when ever I see "Sign up" it makes me nervous.

On the other hand ,"Sign in", to me means something completely different only used to indicate a visit. No legal or binding connections.

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In my opinion, We may use "Sign In" when a user "Signed" an agreement while registering to a website while on the "Sign up" Section. This means you hearby sign and enter the system.

Whereas "Login" says Ok create my Log and let me enter into the system.

I havent read any articles on this, this is just a wild guess as the names say it all.

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This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

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this isn't the place for wild guesses and no research –  ColinSharpe Feb 4 at 12:19
    
My bad. Will come up with more authenticate references to this very soon. –  Jawwad Ahmed Feb 4 at 14:23

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