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

  • 26
    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
  • 10
    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.
    – Gabin
    May 7 '14 at 5:43
  • 2
    Any updates to this topic for 2014/2015 ?! Additionally, Based on latest research/work, when is it best use Log In/ Log Out vs. Sign In / Sign Out for enterprise SaaS software?
    – danielone
    Jun 18 '15 at 23:18

22 Answers 22


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.)

  • 15
    I agree there is confusion with the Sign in and Sign up, I rather use register instead.
    – BrunoLM
    Aug 30 '10 at 11:39
  • 11
    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. Jul 3 '13 at 16:33
  • 3
    @TimFitzGerald Original poster; E.g. the person who asked the question.
    – API-Beast
    May 10 '14 at 23:16
  • 6
    Great answer, but I wonder whether there's a more recent research, since Nielsen himself admits that some usability recommendations change over time. Sep 1 '14 at 17:29
  • 3
    I think "common use" is a pretty poor argument here. Plenty of UX antipatterns are in common use, with the better alternatives represented far less. It's quite possible that designers use "sign up/sign in", because they like the symmetry, but that it it increases the cognitive load and probability of capture slips.
    – Peter
    Aug 31 '15 at 19:46

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.
  • 22
    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
  • 2
    @Rahul I really appreciate the differentiation between "Log In" and "Login" here. For years, I thought both are the same thing. Jan 7 '19 at 6:39

I think that this article about the “Sign Up” button is interesting, the author changed the “Sign Up” button to “Try it Free” and clicks increased by 212%.

His thesis is that the standard “Sign Up” buttons don’t work because “they ask for blind commitment” and “do not offer any value”.

Visitors also “see common elements repeated on many sites” and “they begin unconsciously ignoring those elements (aka “habituation”)”.

He suggests:

  • Tie it to your product. If you have a SaaS for trading bitcoins: “Start Trading Bitcoins.” If you have a marketplace for artists: “Start Selling Art.” This helps prevent the button from being overlooked.
  • Give, don’t take. “Get Access” and “Sign Up” both lead to the same thing, but one makes the visitor feel they’re getting something, while the other doesn’t.
  • Compel people to act. Use action verbs such as get, start, and try.

Of course there are many variables to consider (what kind of website is yours? Changing the label of the button increases clicks, but what about new subscriptions? etc.) but it may be worth having a look at it.

  • 3
    This is interesting but it doesn't directly answer OP's question. The question was about Sign in vs Log in, not Sign up.
    – vphilipnyc
    Oct 19 '16 at 3:06

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. 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 Feb 4 '14 at 19:43

Use Log in to avoid capture slips

I would be very careful with the "common usage" argument. For example: the use of sign up and sign in has a very pleasant symmetry which doubtless appeals to many people. Unfortunately, this symmetry reduces the difference by which the user recognizes the button she needs to just two letters. It's very easy to click sign up when you meant sign in.

Ultimately, the fact that everybody does it, doesn't mean that it's good UX. There's plenty of terrible UX patterns that are conventions. (Confirmation dialogs, anyone?)

For the reasons above, I would not use any option with sign in it: even if you go with "sign up/log in", the fact that it's so close to "sign in" means the user has to pay more attention, even if she makes the right choice in the end.

If you use "register/log in", there is no chance of confusion, and you lighten the cognitive load.

  • Similarly, if you use register / sign in you avoid confusion, but you also fit common usage. Mar 31 '16 at 17:42
  • The suggestion to use "Log" is based on a conflation between "Sign up" and "Sign in". While there does exist such a confusion, it is not a valid argument to prefer "Log" in this case.
    – cleverbit
    Oct 12 '16 at 11:26
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    @cleverbit My point is that there is only one action for the "log" prefix (no such thing as logging up). Therefore a link starting with log will never be mistaken for a registration link.
    – Peter
    Oct 13 '16 at 14:32

I agree consistency is key.

This means not just consistent within your own site but with the general web (if it's 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 Out, Sign In, "Sign up for a new account"


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...

  • 2
    +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.
    – Möoz
    May 25 '11 at 23:24
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    On the contrary. Logging in is exactly what we do when we enter our credentials on a website. We actually make an entry into the log before entering the system. @Ronal Tepp's answer is exactly what the answer shouldn't be. Jun 21 '17 at 12:16
  • Oh @ShreyasTripathy, you are so sure that one way of expressing this concept is so much superior to the other, that you are ready to crucify anybody holding an opposite opinion... Really constructive ... Jun 22 '17 at 6:30
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    I have nothing against your opinion because there aren't any specific rules for using these keywords. My qualm is with the logic behind your answer Jun 22 '17 at 7:09

I personally prefer the Log In / Sign Up combination. My justification for this is that the Sign In and Sign Up will confuse people, it becomes harder for them to find what each button means unless they reach the end of the word.

Log In is pretty standard and gets the job done and takea away the confusion as well.


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.


Based on google trends, "login" is used 9 times more than "sign in".

Nevertheless, there are two countries that prefer "sign in" over "login": France and Turkey.

"sign in" is used 50% more than "log in".

enter image description here

"log on", "logon" and "sign on" are not widely used.

Although Jakob Nielsen recommended in 2002 the use of "sign in" / "sign out" over "log in" / "log out", the dialog principles of the ISO 9241-110 norm recommends that design should be in conformity with user expectations. In other words: if everyone is doing it, you should also do it.

Another important dialog principle is the error tolerance. Having "login" and "sign up" will avoid capture slips as recommended in Peter's answer

In summary: Use "Login" for the title of your pages and links, "Log in" in the buttons to log in and "Sign up" to create a new user account.


I think there is no definitive answer on this.

It really depends on your demographic.

If you demographic understands what Sign in is, its ok. However, there is a case in my home country where majority of people don't understand what "Sign in" means. The "Log in" is much better understanded. So when I changed the button to "Log in" and the users of that country specific website started to log in more often.

So the answer is use "Sign in" as a best guess used by Google/Yahoo, but check if you demographic does not confuse it and understands it well.

If the people in your country do not understand it well use "Log in"


In light of the fact that there's so much subjective opinion on this topic, I'd like to call for standardization, perhaps by W3 as part of their WCAG accessibility guidelines. The lack of a standard makes this a real problem for blind and vision impaired users who typically use a search tool to find the login link (or button). Having to search in turn for "sign in", "log in", "signin", and "login" (all of which I've personally seen) is frustrating and time consuming.


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

  • 3
    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. Jul 3 '13 at 13:32
  • The process of authentication almost feels like it is being tied into the log in/sign up flow these days (at least with certain types of applications).
    – Michael Lai
    Oct 30 '18 at 1:42

I just had this same dilemma as well. In this instance, we're really isolated ourselves to English.

I ultimately took the shortest route by using Log In for http://simmerwp.com. "Log" is shorter than "sign" so that's what I let my decision ride on ultimately. As you point out, many social networks and other platforms use "Sign," and others use even more (longer) outlandish copy.

I think the placement, and icon selection are almost more important than the text, however. In the instance above you can see we went for a super minimalist design in the main navigation at full responsive width, and down around tablet and mobile widths, we have a single icon to combine these areas.

Cheers, and good luck!

Edit: To be honest, I don't know why we're not using just "Login" vs. "Log In," the former being shorter still. Welcome to any thoughts on that spelling as well.


The term 'log in' is, from what I see, considered somewhat 'antiquated' - When a few people I know hear the phrase log in, they claimed they first thought of the windows 95/98 log in screen.

I believe that it is just a stylistic change of no real importance.

Personally, I prefer 'log in', but then again I also use a beige telephone and an IBM keyboard that predates windows 95/98. So take that with a pinch of salt. I am of the impression that it is now seen as antiquated, in any case.


Problem with Log in is there is no Log up. You have to either use Create Account, Join or Sign up anyways. My thinking is that Login, Logout is mostly used in Desktop software and Sign up and Sign in look mostly website related.

However, I myself use Sign up and Sign in in my desktop software because it seems US population is used to mostly Sign up and Sign in.

Another confusion is between the use of 'Login' or 'Log in'. 'Sign up' and 'Login' makes sense too. However, in my view, Logout is better than Sign out for desktop software.

  • 1
    This question isn't about what to call the registration link, but... I would not use both "Sign In" and "Sign Up" since they're so similar. I've seen users click the wrong one and get errors upon submission. The difference between "Sign In" and "Register" is easier to see at a glance. Jun 27 '18 at 12:48

I would personally use "login", "sign out", and join. In my opinion, "join" is easier to distinguish than "sign up," and sounds better than "register". I would use "login" and "sign out" because I see them used more commonly than "sign in" or "log out". They are also easy to use and distinguish. This website even uses "Log In" and "Sign Up"!


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.

  • 1
    @Rahul already made this comment to @Dan Barak's answer :)
    – jensgram
    Aug 30 '10 at 16:05

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 ;)


Sign up means "to register; to create an account". In computing, sign in and log in are synonyms. Both mean "to open a session with an account that is already created". There is one difference: the derived noun login "a username; a session under that username" exists, but there is no such noun as *sigin


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.

  • 2
    this isn't the place for wild guesses and no research
    – Toni Leigh
    Feb 4 '14 at 12:19
  • My bad. Will come up with more authenticate references to this very soon. Feb 4 '14 at 14:23

How about "Authenticate" and "Terminate Session"?

  • 5
    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
    – Jason A.
    Feb 4 '14 at 12:06
  • 2
    i can't actually think of anything worse from a users perspective short of using hex codes or something !
    – Toni Leigh
    Mar 1 '14 at 16:43
  • I'm just laughing at the poor guy's username.
    – Matt M.
    Jun 17 '14 at 8:20
  • Did ... did he create the username to answer this question? Jun 21 '17 at 12:55

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