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When looking at a mobile app's welcome screen, there are generally two types of designs:
- One that targets new users by prominently displaying the Signup option
- One that targets existing users by prominently displaying the Login option

However, each of these screens seem to always display the alternate option as a secondary link (i.e. A signup screen will commonly have a link at the bottom saying something like "Already have an account?").

This seems redundant if the app can already detect whether the user is new or existing.

Furthermore, existing users require different information from new users. (i.e. An existing user might need "forgot password?" and a new user might need a short description of what the app does and/or a "Take the Tour" link). If this information is displayed along with the primary and secondary call to actions I feel like it could cause the user to feel overwhelmed.

With all of that being said, what are the best practices for designing welcome screens for new and existing users?

  • There's no practical way to determine if a user is new or returning. People have multiple devices, share devices, reinstall software, for get logins, etc, etc. You have to accommodate both. – DA01 Apr 27 '15 at 18:41
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    Definitely accommodate both, however... Facebook and Twitter know that their incredibly large user base means that most people have an account, which prominently displays the login with what appears to be a secondary (or sometimes a tertiary) action for registration. That really depends on your user base. – Majo0od Apr 27 '15 at 18:43
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    But you could also assume that most people installing your app will already have a login, unless your app is only an app and not a website too. – Majo0od Apr 27 '15 at 18:43
  • Are returning users likely to stay logged in permanently? Make things as smooth as possible for the majority of users. – Nathan MacInnes Apr 28 '15 at 14:06
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For social apps, one needs to sign - in to view the happenings in their circles. Who liked the posts, who tagged me or who added me in the circle etc. These are confidential with respect to user's privacy. Hence the app emphasises on Sign In in big and Signup in small ( reason as described @Majo0od)

For other purposes like shopping app on other hand, doesn't require signing in untill the user has made up the mind. So to encourage one to shop using the app, everything is kept open. Browse the stuff, enjoy the experience of using the app. Like it? Ok, now sign in or sign up. No emphasis on signup.

Thats a very good question. Apart from existing users and new users, positioning of SignUp and Sign In depends a lot on type of application, intent of using the application. Hence these different treatments.

I think we can build a set of Best Practices here....Let us pool in and build the set of guidelines. :)

1: Establish the type of application

2: Determine the user base.

3: Activities of user

....

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Best Practice: Both should be used.

As a social scientist studying people from the United States and their relationships between technology, I can say that in my experience both has always been better.

You wrote: This seems redundant if the app can already detect whether the user is new or existing.

If you are using non-standard ways to detect if a "user" is logged in, you should provide the option to not use this feature or build it into logging in and logging out.

Example: People on shared computers can be very sensitive about "auto-logging-in", so to keep it simple, allow them to sign up or login, and logout without any side affects. Offer options for longer sessions if you must.

If you want to redesign the login/signup experience based on the logic you've placed here, you need to keep in mind that it's not just about what is "logical" but what is culturally afforded within a groups understanding of the way something works. If my assumption that many users are quite experienced and expectant that a login page has a sign up link and a sign up page with a login page, then your design should alleviate what users understand to be problematic about the affordance. I've observed "users" who already have an account use this affordance as a login strategy

  • Enter site
  • Then click 'Sign Up'
  • Then click 'Have an account? Log in'
  • Login

The study showed that some "users" employ this strategy based on the reliability of another ubiquitous feature of websites and apps. We can say it's incorrect but we can also gain an understanding of how certain groups of "users" have learned the way that this part of the web works.

If you want to focus on your "user" base then you should run a study.

FYI: I don't assume that 3 options will overwhelm the user, assuming the "user" can read moderately and uses technology quite often, may not feel overwhelmed by reading 3 call to actions that point them in various directions. It makes it sound like "users" are hypersensitive neurotics, when quite typically they are faced with much more complicated options like what's for lunch.

In short:

  • DO WHAT WORKS!

  • BUILD IT DIFFERENTLY AND TEST IT!!

  • KEEP GAINING AND UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR "USER" BASE!!!

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Two key aspects of User Interface Design are the following

  1. Make the system intuitive and easy to use for new users
  2. Dont slow down expert of familiar users to achieve 1

Considering that a bulk of your traffic most likely will be existing users coming back who already have an account I would Make Log In the primary focus, with a smaller emphasis of sign up now some where else.

You could also have a dynamic form that says , hey we dont have a username with that account would you like to sign up now?

Furthermore to tell who it is , if a user logs in or has an account you could possibly leave a cookie in their browser and use that to also help detect if they are an existing or new member.

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