How close to Zero Friction is your signup process? just launched this last week, and it looks pretty cool. It seems like it might be our best shot at getting back to the sort of useful discussion that we used to have on the Usenet back in the 90's. Lots of signal, hardly any noise, and even the occasional correct answer. Sign me up!

Uh... wait a sec... I can't sign up.

StackOverflow has made the inexplicable blunder of requiring its users to sign in via OpenID. That means you can't simply pick a username and password, but must instead go away and find yourself an OpenID provider, sign up for that, and bring it back to StackOverflow. It's like 14 steps, depending on which provider you choose. Observe:


  • Click login
  • Read a ton of instructions
  • Locate and click the "get one" link
  • Dismiss the javascript error popup from
  • Read a bunch more instructions
  • Find and click the "ClaimID" link (it's the first one on the list of providers)
  • Click "Create a new account"
  • Type in your information
  • Open your email, find their email, click the link
  • Go back to StackOverflow, click login again
  • Paste in that giant URL that is now your OpenID
  • Type in your Username & Password
  • Type in a bunch of Personal Info
  • ... and you're in! Easy as that!

Now, for sake of comparison, let's take a look at the steps required to start using Twiddla (the web meeting playground that we've been working on these last several months here at Expat):


Can you spot the difference?

Look, it's not just me saying this. Talk to any Usability expert you like, and they'll tell you that every barrier that you put in front of your users will cause a certain percentage of them to leave and not come back. For most sites, even stopping to ask for a Username & Password is too intrusive. That's why we built Twiddla the way we did.

Our stated goal with Twiddla is to get the hell out of your way so that you can get some work done. We've taken that idea so far that most of our users will never see a login screen of any description. Some might not ever know they've used Twiddla at all, since we keep our Logo hidden away in the corner where it's not in your way.

Can we say the same about StackOverflow's new registration system? Unfortunately not. For me, it was 10 minutes of grumbling "StackOverflow", "F'ng StackOverflow" under my breath while stumbling through the painful OpenID signup process. Complete usability failure. I can only hope they'll come to their senses and put in a reasonable username/password login like everybody else.

Jason Kester

I run a little company called Expat Software. Right now, the most interesting things we're doing are related to Cloud Storage Analytics, Online Classrooms, and Customer Lifecycle Metrics for SaaS Businesses. I'll leave it to you to figure out how those things tie together.

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