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Best practice says that log in/sign up fields should always be top right of the website, no arguments there.

There seems to be a trend towards simply having "Sign up here. Or log in if you already have an account" instead of having the complete log in form, still in the top right however.

Is there a reason for this? Is it no longer considered to be good design to have the complete log in for as standard (see Betfair for example, they do have the complete form)?

Thanks very much, all answers welcome!

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I think it is because we read from left to right. So, in order of importance would be first your logo/site title, then login/signup/etc. –  user1477388 Feb 20 at 17:09
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5 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I think the trend is motivated by aesthetic values and the fact that two simple buttons/links (log in and sign up) saves more space.

I can see where having the log in form displayed ready and at the go will eliminate an extra click that takes you to an other page or activates a drop down with the form. But then the registration form should be displayed for the same exact reasons.

Forms are ugly and frightening. Possibly they don't mix with the look of the front page. A dedicated page can look nicer. Hiding the log in form might even suggest to the user they can still navigate the page without having to register. People hate having to register (just look to exit rates in checkout procedures on e-commerce sites) and a log in form can frighten them and make them think they'll have to register in order to use the website.

Which is better, I don't know. I think it's one of those conventions people just do without considering it.

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It's a convention, which people got used to and come to expect it there. Much like the asterisk that denominates a mandatory field - there's no particular reason other than it's become a widespread convention.

As always in these cases, you are allowed to break this rule, but only if you have a really good reason. Just make sure users can find it in its new place.

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I would argue this to be a good example of Progressive Disclosure. From the Nielsen Norman Group:

Interaction designers face a dilemma:

Users want power, features, and enough options to handle all of their special needs. ( Everybody is a special case somehow. For example: Who wants line numbers in a word processor? Millions of users, that's who, including most big law firms.)

Users want simplicity; they don't have time learn a profusion of features in enough depth to select the few that are optimal for their needs.

Progressive disclosure is one of the best ways to satisfy both of these conflicting requirements. It's a simple, yet powerful idea:

Initially, show users only a few of the most important options. Offer a larger set of specialized options upon request. Disclose these secondary features only if a user asks for them, meaning that most users can proceed with their tasks without worrying about this added complexity.

http://www.nngroup.com/articles/progressive-disclosure/

Edit: adding top line from wikipedia, as I think it adds value here:

Progressive disclosure is an interaction design technique often used in human computer interaction to help maintain the focus of a user's attention by reducing clutter, confusion, and cognitive workload. This improves usability by presenting only the minimum data required for the task at hand.

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This is just my opinion, but as a right-handed user, I feel like something that closer to my right side is more within my control. Therefore, in a website, something on the left side is more like what the website has to offer us, when something on the right side is like what we can do with that offer. But then that maybe just because English is read from left to right, where left is usually premise, and right is the conclusion. Like the waiter ask: what do you want to eat? and then we answer: a pizza. On the website, the question is on the left, and the answer is combobox or input field on the right. It's the same. On the login case, on the left is the website's logo, menu, or whatsoever the website has to offer us, something that more like within the website's control, and on the right side is the login form, where we have the sense of more control, something nearer to our right hand side. Of course I don't know what the left handed user felt about this circumstances.

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  • doesn't "have to" be somewhere, you can put it wherever you want, as long as the users find it quickly enough
  • top left is usually reserved for the logo
  • users are used to find it there, so it's a fair guess that's a good place to put it even without user testing
  • top right usually accommodates the window controls (close, minimize) and if you close it from top right, you might as well open or sign in from there...
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