Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Paradise City Problem

A Worthy Goal

Our goal is to make YouPublish smart and easy to use. You may notice that visitors can dive right in without logging in or registering until they decide to take an action that requires them to do so.
For example, a first time visitor, let’s call her Kathy, may browse profiles and publications—even download sample files without logging in. Kathy is a Type I diabetic and finds a free publication that offers diabetes management tips. She decides she wants this publication and clicks the “Get” button. This action requires a YouPublish account so that Kathy can forever return to YouPublish and find this publication in her library. After clicking the “Get” button Kathy is presented with a short registration form. After submitting the form, Kathy’s files are immediately stored in her library and a message appears thanking her for getting the publication.
This behavior is ubiquitous throughout the site. If Kathy clicks on links that take her to her account or her library and she has not logged in yet, she will be prompted before she can continue. We hope this feels less intrusive and the expected result is clear to YouPublish users when they see the login form. Logging out however… is another matter.

The Problem

So the path for log in is clear—take the user where they asked to go or perform the action they initiated after they authenticate, but what about logging out? We discussed this recently in a meeting. Half of us thought the user should be taken to the home page, the other half wanted them to remain on the page where they logged out. In trying to build a smart, intuitive application, we stumbled upon a block we revisit frequently: one user’s intuition is another user’s confusion.

Oh, Won’t You Please Take Me Home?

If you’re at all familiar with G N’ R (Guns N’ Roses for non Gen-X’ers) hits, you may remember the tune Paradise City where the chorus ends in “Oh won’t you please take me home?!”. It was after a few minutes of dead-end discussion that I began singing this line in my best Axel Rose voice (yeah, we sing in meetings some times—keeps it real), because I felt that the user should be redirected to the home page after logging out. We ended up going with this behavior in order to meet a deadline (maybe the group agreed so I’d stop singing?), but we intend to change this.
Let me describe a scenario where being redirected to the home page would be less than ideal. Again, we’re after a smart application here—meaning one that does what you’d expect it to. Let’s go back to Kathy who just added that diabetes publication to her library. Now imagine that Kathy has two YouPublish accounts (personal and business), or maybe Kathy was browsing YouPublish with a diabetes support group and others present want the same document. Either way, it may have taken Kathy some searching to find that publication. The application could leave her on the page displaying the current application after logging out. If Kathy were in a section of the site that displays here personal information, say while editing her account settings or preferences, the application would then redirect to the home page.
The key to this approach is communication. The application will need to clearly communicate to the user that they have been logged out. So in either case: either being redirected to the home page (if Kathy logged out working with her private information on the site) or remaining on a publication’s page if she logged out there, a nice message will display informing Kathy of the logged out status

What Do You Think?

Whew! I hope that gives you a taste of the caliber of experience we intend to provide YouPublish users. If you have suggestions on how we handle user authentication (log-ins and log-outs), please comment below. Like I said, one user’s intuition is another user’s confusion—we appreciate your input to help us identify scenarios we didn’t think of.
Now Axel, won’t you please take us home…

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