The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of Terry Chay. Content published here is not read or approved by Plaxo before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Plaxo.
Today I signed into my Plaxo account and was met with a pleasant surprise:
The new thing that wasn’t here before is that you can theoretically use your AIM account to sign into Plaxo. (I say “theoretically” because you have to link your Plaxo account to your AIM account and this can’t be done yet.)
I know most of you are thinking, “Well he makes the damn website so of course he knew this,” but the reality is that I’m not involved with the Plaxo-AOL deal, have not coded this new log in screen, and had only given one suggestion for the log-in screen.
I bring this up because it is a really good page.
Update: The AOL/AIM binding/login stuff is now live to coincide with the beta 6 release of Triton. You can now bind your AIM account to your Plaxo one.
Also, Joseph and Huy have added more NLP madness in the Plaxo login. It’s now super smart.
Flickr merged sign-in
To understand why I like the way Plaxo has done the sign-in page, it is important to compare it to the standard way of handling merged sign-ins. A wonderful recent example is Flickr. Flickr was bought out by Yahoo! and are in the process of merging the accounts. While in the future there will be only a single sign-on, currently old users can log in using their Flickr account while new users (or those that have merged accounts) can use their Yahoo! sign in.
Here is the new Flickr sign-in page:
Sure, it has a nice mouseover, but why do I have to go through this extra screen just to log in? In fact, why is so much screen real estate devoted to telling you information that you need only discover the first time—which area you should click? This UI is not worthy of them. Yes I realize that this isn’t why some people are irrationally hating the impending Flickr-Yahoo merger but this page actually bothers me quite a bit because I rarely leave myself logged in to Flickr and have to go through this screen all the time.
Why Plaxo’s merged sign-in is nicer
Compare this to Plaxo’s sign-in. Besides the obvious difference that the Plaxo sign-in forces you to go through their secure-server. When you click on the “AIM Screen Name” radio button switches the fields “E-mail address” and “Password” to “Screen Name” and “AIM Password.” There is also an easter-egg where if you type in something that is obviously a screen name (i.e. you didn’t create your AIM account via Apple’s Mac.com system), it will transparently log you in to Plaxo using your AIM screen name as the account even if you forget to switch the radio to “AIM Screen Name.” Now that’s some good UI.
I know that perhaps a bit of this is beyond Flickr’s control. Yahoo’s single sign-on system requires that everything be filtered through their servers and there are some domain cookie issues to navigate. But on the other hand, I expect that it isn’t any harder than what Plaxo does with AOL so I like it when the product designers and engineers here at work go the extra mile to make the experience seamless.
What my suggestion was
This merged sign-in idea isn’t unique to Plaxo. Apple’s iTunes has a similar use-case when you try to use the iTunes Music Store.
If you mouse over the image you will notice that the example text and the label for the first text box changes.
(I’ll ping this article when I find out that you can link your Plaxo account to your AIM screen name.)