I work on a Java application that deals with cloud security.

We have just introduced a "Forgotten your password?" link on our login screen. Due to the nature of the product, users have to turn this feature on before the link will work.

This means that we have to document how to turn on the feature, which means that we need to name the feature.

I would prefer to tell users that they can turn on the "Forgotten your password" link. My reasoning is that in the mind of a user, the UI text defines the name of the feature.

A colleague doesn't like this, and wants to tell users that they can turn on Password Recovery. He likes this better because it looks less awkward.

Do you have evidence of which would work better for users? Alternatively, do you have a better approach?

  • 1
    Why do they have to turn on the "forgot your password" feature? What if they can't get into the system and they never turned on the feature? Seems like they'd be shit out of luck.
    – erik_lev
    Nov 8 '13 at 1:47
  • 1
    Yup, that's a limitation of our product. It uses a local keystore and we can't reset the user's password for them... we simply can't get in to their keystore. Which is good for security but not much fun if they forget their password. It's not easy to find the balance between security and convenience, but that's what we are trying to do. Nov 8 '13 at 2:27
  • Be careful. Bend to the user's model not the implementation model. Good luck!
    – erik_lev
    Nov 8 '13 at 5:48
  • I agree with usingtheinternet. I would focus on figuring out how to eliminate the need for this feature, rather than figuring out what to call it.
    – E L
    Nov 8 '13 at 6:13

"Password Recovery" is less awkward, but to refer to a "Password Recovery", when the link is labelled "Forgotten your password", clearly has potential for confusion. I would recommend "Forgot password" over "Forgotten password".

Ultimately I'd probably use the UI text "Forgot password" and in documentation use the phrase "Enable the Forgot password link". In a sense it is slightly more awkward that "Enable password recovery" but it's actually more accurate. In this case more accurate is better than less awkward.


Can I assume that, once enabled, the option to enable Password Recovery disappears from the login screen? In this case I'd cover both bases and say

Enable Password Recovery (this puts a 'Forgotten your password?' link on the login screen.)

or something to that effect.

This clutter will only exist for the, probably short, time that a user has it disabled. Indeed, having the clutter there will encourage a user to do something about it.

Additionally, I assume that if a user has already forgotten their password, enabling this is of no additional use. If that's the case then I'd make that very clear, otherwise users may expect to be able to enable the link and use it immediately.


First, I would recommend you go back and read any transcripts from the research phase for this product and see if your user base already have an apparent preference, based on what words/terminology/concepts they used.

If you don't have any user driven demand for this feature then ... why are you developing it in the first place?

Assuming it's a feature that is either mandated by stakeholders or actually requested by users, this is something you can test with your current user base, same as any other terminology. Just run a quick survey with a simple question (being careful not to use leading wording):

  1. "We have a new option where we email you a link to change your password if you can't remember it ... what would you call that option?"
    • "Security Assertion" feature
    • "Forgot Password" feature
    • "Password Recovery" feature
    • (and some other bogus naming)
    • Other: [_________________________________]

Throw in some extra seemingly reasonable answers just to cover the field, and use a survey tool that lets you randomise the order of the answer options (so as to avoid biasing the one option over another).

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