I am currently redesigning a secondary website (microsite) for a company's financial advisors. The primary reason for accessing this microsite is so they can sign on to their private dashboard area. Within this area, they can view client accounts, balances and transactions. The clients of these advisors access another site, call that the master site. The clients access their online financial center through the master site and that experience has already been built.

The dilemma is whether to distinguish the advisor sign on, located in the (i.e. changing it's location, it's look, etc) or to keep the sign on experience the same as the master site.

There are chances that the clients of these advisors might accidentally stumble onto the microsite (since there is a link from the master site to this site for prospective financial advisors).

Any existing examples would be helpful! :)


When customer (non-advisor) meets the advisor's sign on form (see sketch), she not only distinguish it by different look and feel but also:

  1. Gets cue (for whom this form is).
  2. Gets the chance to cope with error (move back to master site).

Sign on

So don't rely on look and feel only but provide meaningful information and means for error correction. Make it obvious and give control to user.

One more argument for different forms is concept of knowledge in the world (obvious external signs) vs. knowledge in the head (memory), the good source for it is Norman's The Design of the Everyday Things, chapter 3 and one more shorter source.

  • Very insightful, I thought about including a link back to the main site but decided against it cause I thought it would be too much 'babying' for the client, but you've convinced me otherwise. Thanks!
    – rubysoho
    Jun 18 '13 at 13:35

I would definitely keep them distinct. In the past, I have located sign-on for those in an advisory role in the uppermost left corner. If there is a section of the master site that explains the relationship the company has with its financial advisors, that might be another area where sign-on could occur. I would see the advisors as being similar to vendors--it's a back-door relationship. Clients, on the other hand, are closer to consumers or customers. Their sign-on experience should be more front-facing. It could be in the primary navigation or lower down, in the content area or right nav.


People are signing in to one site or the other. It therefore has to be very clear what site someone is currently on. I.e. the differentiation should go much further that simply changing the sing on UI. In fact, if the sites are distinct enough, you could have the same sign on. If only the sign on is different, people might think "hey, they changed the sign on" instead of "this is the wrong site". Note that you will have to test if the distinction you've created is clear enough.


+1 to Alexey, but with one nitpick. Whatever it is (and there are other threads on it), be consistent in whether this is a "Sign on" or "Login"....or "Log in."

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