I have a site for which I am working to improve user onboarding.

What happens now is that when a user does some action that requires him to be logged in, I make a jQuery popup come up telling him to log in. And if he is not registered, there is a link to registration.

But sometimes I see sites that do it in reverse order and show the "register" screen first.

I guess if you want people to register, the register screen makes more sense, but then it would annoy people who are already registered. No?

What is the best practice for doing this sort of thing? Does it make sense to show both, the register and login form on the same popup?

  • 5
    If you show register first, you risk some users trying to register a second time rather than logging in.
    – Jcubed
    Commented Dec 27, 2011 at 2:17
  • Store a cookie if a user logs out of your site. Then you if you should display the login screen (=cookie present) or the register screen (=no cookie).
    – Reeno
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 12:41
  • For me is logical to show the login form when he tries to do some actions that require login... There are better chances he has an account if he does those actions... It is not about a popup that appears in a landing page... It hasn't sense for me the register screen first... Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 10:47

12 Answers 12


I'd show the Login-Screen with a clearly visible Registration-Link. Users that are registered can quickly login and the others can see where they have to go.

Another solution I saw and liked was adding radioboxes like this:

[x] Login
[_] Register

When "Register" is checked or the password is left blank users will be redirect to the registration form with the username already filled in.

  • This is the mechanism I was going to suggest and is used by a popular online book-store...
    – Nij
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 18:23

Why not both? You could either put two forms side by side, or use tabs.

Alternatively, have a simple username/password (or email/password) labelled "login" then a section below labelled "register" with whichever extra fields you would need for registration.


How often will your users use the register screen, and how often will they use the login screen? The answer is probably "every time but once", and "once".

If you're concerned about user experience, optimize for the normal case.


Both is a much better than either. Whichever one comes up first, I am liable to try filling in, which may not be the right one. If it doesn't work, then I am liable to give up - negative feedback is always bad.

Both - side by side - means I have to make my own choice.


Launchrock have a nice model for this, a single email field is displayed, and checked against their database of existing users. If email is found, the user is asked their password to login, otherwise they are shown the signup:

enter image description here

  • 10
    This has a bad security issue. Somehow, you are exposing your user base to the world and this can help a lot hackers, as, instead of having to guess 2 fields, you only have to guess the password! Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 21:08
  • Absolutely agree with @EduardoRusso - this is terrible for security reasons.
    – Nij
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 18:21
  • A reference for the problem exposed by this kind of form is here: troyhunt.com/2014/02/… - see the section titled 'Account Disclosure and Enumeration'
    – Nij
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 19:18
  • +1 for the simple fact that we're using this on our site (or rather mobile app), and didn't know it's a security issue. Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 20:37
  • @EduardoRusso its not any different from what every app displays on their 'Forgot Password?' page.
    – Adnan Khan
    Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 1:40

While I don't like sites that make it not 100% clear whether I'm in Login or Register (and hence not with the simple checkbox ideas), I really (as a user) like the idea of combining Registration and Login in one page.

Usually you have two panels, one for the two login fields, and the other for the same fields plus any fields required for registration, Similar to login in http://tekpub.com (note necessarily a pop-up though).


If you wanted to be really clever, you could store a long-term cookie on the user's machine and show Login if you know they've logged in before and Register otherwise.

But as many other questions have mentioned, there's nothing wrong with showing both at once.


I think both makes for a much friendlier experience. With a little javascript and good design, a div may only show 50% initially with the login and have very intuitive UI to focus on the other 50% where your registration form live.


I think showing both side by side is a good option to solve the UX issue.

Here is a good read on increase onboarding with useful examples: http://insideintercom.io/strategies-for-onboarding-new-users/

To go a step further in increase registration, give something valuable for user to wants to register. http://www.copypress.com/blog/increase-site-registrations-with-effective-onboarding/

  • 2
    Can you summarize the main content of those links? Without a summary the links will be worthless should they expire.
    – JonW
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 14:17

This topic was addressed on this question. Jay provides a great answer.


It's a function of how much each user-type's conversion likelihood can be influenced by the defaults to complete the action.

Design assuming someone doesn't have an account. Active users have a higher frustration threshold and will work to find links. Also active users tend to stay logged in. Every speed-bump thrown in front of a user increases their frustration from accomplishing their task.

Also ask yourself do I absolutely need the user to create an account here? Is there a way I could allow users to accomplish their task, gaining more rapport with them and possibly increasing the likelihood they'll create an account?


Well I would ask if the purpose of the screen is login or signup? Are you using one screen simply meant to be directed to from a login link/CTA and the signup is being led to from some marketing or sales CTAs?

If the main idea is to get users to fill out credentials and convert them into accounts, I'd lead with a form for signup with a "already a member"-esque message. If you have both forms on the screen you run the possibility of creating two tasks for users to complete when really we should be making it simple with one main, and one sub-task.


Both option in one screen is better. Now days most of sites have more reliable login panels.

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