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I'm building a web application, primarily aimed at students and young people. I'm guessing everyone has at least one social account(Facebook/Twitter/Google etc.)

Is it enough only to offer register/login via these methods or should I also add regular old register/login?

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    Welcome to UX StackExchange! Unfortunately this is a question of application design and scope (and perhaps security too) and not UX. You may be better off asking at startups StackExchange or User Growth SE. – tohster May 15 '15 at 18:47
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    Disagree entirely. It has a big affect on user behaviour. – PhillipW May 15 '15 at 19:14
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    I am a student. I have a Facebook/Twitter account. I never use them to sign into another app. So you would already have lost me as a user. – Marvin May 15 '15 at 20:54
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    @Marvin may I ask why not? – intelis May 15 '15 at 21:04
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    intelis: I've added an answer :) @Bob Sinclar: I won't give sensitive data to both of them. If a website asks me for a username and email I have no problem with that. Everything else I do on the website can be tracked by Joe the developer even if I register with fb. And I don't want a social network to be able to do this, too. – Marvin May 16 '15 at 7:17
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Only using these big social media authentication accounts to sign into your website aimed at students/young people will work fine.

However lets think about the users who dont have a gmail twitter or facebook. You should put a section in there for them. Dont have a twitter/gmail/hotmail? sign up for one here. Suggest them to sign up for one that takes the least amount of effort to register for. I signed up for an outlook or hotmail account when i initially started using azure because thats the only thing they accepted.

Theres two thoughts here. Would a user rather make an account on your site or through one of these big identity sites?

  • I would argue they would rather sign up for a gmail than remember credentials for your tiny site because they could possibly use that gmail to authenticate against again. I signed up for twitter because a smashing conference asked for your twitter so i figured its about time i use it because it will come in handy again.

Heres another reason allow users to sign in with social media, keeping users trust. When you authenticate against facebook all you hold onto is a token. Thus if your breached your not leaking users emails phone numbers passwords or any other sensitive data.

Many people have registered for something to enable the use of another thing. Not just facebook or gmail but think of signing up for Store credit card or an Amex card for costco membership, or an EZ pass to drive on a certain highway.

Lets look at statistics because the OP is targeting YOUNG users & Students

in 2013 just Facebook gets you 84% of americans 18-29 years old.

enter image description here

Facebook also gets you 71% of all internet users

Gmail gets you

lets look at all adults now enter image description here

So just using social media not even email clients you are not only getting a large % of young americans your getting a large percentage of ALL americans.

Sure some People may be hesitant, but if your trying to see whether its worth it for your site to make its own log in vs adding different features for this demographic I would not prioritize the extra effort to do so. Maybe if it was an ecommerce site with financial data things would change.

Lets talk about trust again

  • Why wouldnt you trust Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo? They are all large companies based in the united states that can be sued if they do anything too stupid with your data.
  • Even more importantly Do YOUNG users trust google microsoft yahoo etc? I would argue they do because they dont care or even think about their data that often. Its the same reason young people dont care about NSA privacy issues because they volunteer sharing a wealth of their information for free to twitter facebook.
  • I think there's a major trust issue as to whether you trust one site to have access to data on another site. – PhillipW May 15 '15 at 19:17
  • Let's talk about trust from an European point of view: Every American company must surrender its data to the American government. This is a clear no-go for me. Whenever I have an alternative, I go for a European (best: German) company. And sometimes, when I have no alternative, I live without the service. What do you gain when you don't allow "direct" registrations? – virtualnobi May 20 '15 at 7:17
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    Your not handling that data yourself and your possibly not making your site more vulnerable to breaches. Check out Jeremy Likeness talking about this. All you store is a token , if your breached you say hey Facebook or gmail void these tokens. You don't give up your users email social security number or anything else important. And I know most web developers don't have the resources or knowhow to make their sites as secure as Google and Facebook do. The European point is valid , though not every american company is like that. – Frank Visaggio May 20 '15 at 11:50
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    @BobSinclar - Yes, SAP is not a cure for all :-) I have no alternative, i.e., secure, social site - I left them years ago. But if you google "facebook alternative", there are loads of lists. I have no idea about their approach to privacy, or their legistlation, however. (Two examples: foxnews.com/tech/2013/09/13/…, inspirationfeed.com/resources/applications/…) – virtualnobi May 27 '15 at 7:20
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Provide a regular register method

In a comment to your question I said that I wouldn't use your app if the only way to register is via social networks. The reasons vary from person to person and to not make this answer go off-topic too much I'll give you just a quick outline about some issues:

  • Simple but relevant: I don't use the famous networks
  • I don't want the social networks to know that I'm a user of your website
  • I don't want to give you access to the data I added in the social network
  • I don't want an app to be able to post something automatically to my social profile just because I forgot to disable a settings checkbox

These are some reasons why people might not use social logins even if they have a social network account. The fact that I'm not alone with this is supported by an answer with already > 60 upvotes to a similar question here: Should we restrict signup for a service to Facebook accounts only?

I'm going to be blunt. Any site that only allows me to sign up using FaceBook is a site I will not use.


Back to the question

If you don't provide a regular register method you will lose a significant number of potential users which then won't use your service. In addition to the social login also add your own simple register form for the best user experience and the maximum chance of signup.

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    +1 for "I don't want the social networks to know that I'm a user of your website. Of course Big Data probably allows them to compile that information anyway - but I'm with you there. – Mayo May 16 '15 at 15:39
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    I'm with you on this one. I guess I'm missing quite a lot of stuff, since I'm not using all major social medias, but then again I can't miss stuff that I don't know that exist. I prefer basic registration methods for anything that interests me. – Samuel M May 17 '15 at 20:07
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The methods of registration you provide define your addressable market of users.

Whichever option you provide your users, you are hoping for two things:

  1. They actually have that sign in method.
  2. They trust you with having access to the method they choose.

Do they have the sign in method?

Think about your market of users and if they'll have these methods. These are some generalizations based on my experience, so be sure to verify with data.

Facebook (1.44b MAU as of Mar 2015): Extremely popular in the US, western Europe, and pretty much the rest of the world. Basically inaccessible in China.

Twitter (302m MAU as of Mar 2015): Popular with a portion of people around the world (again, not China). This tends to be a group that's highly tech literate and, dare I say, into self promotion?

Google (2.2b users as of Jan 2015): Popular around the world (not China) thanks to Gmail and Android. If your product is on Android, offering Google sign in is a certain way to give the user a method they already have.

Email (~4b accounts as of 2015): Popular in developed markets. In my experience, people in India, China and emerging markets largely do not use email or in a far less frequent way than a Western adult or student. Even in the US, young people use email far less than working adults.

Mobile Phone Number (6.8b users as of 2013): Universally popular. More people on Earth have a mobile phone than a toilet (6.8b vs. 4.5b). If your user has a phone, they can auth with their number. See Twitter Digits.

Do they trust you?

You could do a survey of a group of potential users to get a sense of what they think of the options you're considering. Anecdotally, although Facebook is extremely popular around the world, trust issues persist with connecting a new app with Facebook. What will this new app do with my social graph? What will they post to my feed? Etc.

A concern, for some users, with email could relate to getting spammed.

Do they need to create an account right away?

Creating an account, regardless of method, is a big conversion barrier. Is there a way to let the user experience your app before they create an account? Wufoo did this to great success by letting users build a form before creating an account. Twitter is also doing this now with content for the logged out user. When the experience sells itself, giving the option to invest in its use before account creation can be valuable.

How will you re-engage?

Email, SMS (more so in emerging markets) or push notifications are needed for reengagement. Depending on the product, one may be more effective than the other. Consider how you'll reengage post-signup.

What do successful apps do?

Look around the space you're entering and see how the successful apps handle this problem. Then, look at other products that have accumulated massive amounts of users (WeChat, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger) and see how they handle it. Maybe you can introduce some new thinking into your market and differentiate yourself.

One last thought: Interestingly enough, Facebook decided to not require a Facebook account for people to sign up with Messenger. What auth method do they provide as an alternative? Mobile phone number.

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Simply put, a regular sign up won't hurt — especially for users that'd prefer to leave their social network details out of it. Sometimes when I'm trying something new, I prefer a regular signup.

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If you have the expertise or infrastructure to do so you should also offer your own registration (i.e. if it doesn't add too much expense to your project).

Social media single sign on is a great low friction method for users who are already signed up to the various providers and don't mind using this method, but you probably don't want to force potential users to sign up for something they didn't really want.

For users who don't have a social account or don't trust / want to use it for your site, you want to offer the simplest method of registering you can which meets your needs and level of authentication / authorisation.

And as always - because this is posted in UX, try it out, do some usability tests, observe your users trying to register. See if they complain about lack of a normal registration if it is removed. See if they wonder why it has been included if it is there. See if they think it is strange that can login with a facebook account (i.e. depending on your users you may want to do the opposite of this question - only offer your own registration).

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Not sure whether anyone has quoted this blog entry yet but the UX director of mailchimp has written about exactly this topic a couple of years ago: http://blog.mailchimp.com/social-login-buttons-arent-worth-it/

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