Log in? Sign in? Sign up? … Log up?

Log in? Sign in? Sign up? … Log up?

Sep 2015

There’s been some discussion at Redgate Towers this week about what we should call the action of getting access to your account. Our style guide, at the moment, says “Log in”, but one of our UX designers thinks “Sign in” is friendlier.

The style guide’s always evolving, so I thought I’d investigate to see if we should change it.

The arguments

We had some chats internally, and I had look around online, and honestly: there aren’t many rational arguments to support one or the other.

The only strong argument I’ve seen is that you should use different verbs for logging in and signing up. Users need to be able to distinguish between them at a glance. Otherwise they’re much more likely to pick the wrong one - they’re not going to slow down and read the text. (See this article for more on that.)

As for choosing between the words: “Log in” has a more technical flavour than “Sign in”, but only a little. That’s pretty much all that’s between them.

Oh, and please do one thing for me: don’t use login as a verb. Here’s a site explaining many reasons it doesn’t work. If you must use login, it’s a noun or adjective, eg “I’ve forgotten my login details”.

What does everyone else do?

Often, making the right choice comes down to picking what people are used to. So I had a look around to see what some widely-used websites do.

Amazon: sign in and create account/register

Apple: sign in and create account (well, Apple ID)

Basecamp: log in and start a trial

Ebay: sign in and register

Facebook: log in and create account

GitHub: sign in and sign up

Google: sign in and create account

Mailchimp: log in and sign up

My Atlassian: log in and sign up

Office: sign in (although they use ‘login’ in the URL, consistency fail) and sign up

Slack: sign in and create an account/sign up

Btw, I don’t think Slack are being inconsistent here - they’re using “Create an account” and “Sign” up to mean two different things.

Twitter: log in and sign up

Where does this leave us?

Sign in: 7, vs log in: 5.

Sign up: 6, vs create account: 5.

Clearly, both versions are widely used, which means whichever you choose, people are likely to understand them. There’s not one that stands out as better for users. So I think it just comes down to what you prefer.

I prefer the Log in/Sign up pairing - it seems neat to me (probably because it’s short). But Sign in/Create account is widely used too, and there isn’t much wrong with it. I like that a bit less, because it’s slightly longer. And our UX designer was worried that “Create account” wasn’t friendly enough.

Above all, be consistent

It doesn’t matter much which one you pick - what matters is that you pick. If you choose “log in”, use that everywhere, and use “log out” correspondingly. And make sure that it’s visually different to what you use for “sign up”.

Let’s finish with a bit of history

On a side note, why is it even called logging in? Turns out the word log, in this sense, comes from logging an entry in log books - which are named after the logs thrown over the side of a boat to measure its speed.

Thanks to DesignCult’s The secret origin of log in for that!