January 29, 2009

Introducing Two-Click Signup, an initiative to improve the user experience of OpenID; first test now live with Google

At Plaxo, we’re big believers in (and early adopters of) OpenID, the promising open standard for online identity. As a result, we’ve suffered as much as anyone the shortcomings in user experience of some of the early implementations out there. Today, we’re pleased to announce Two-Click Signup, an initiative we’re kicking off to improve the user experience of OpenID, and the rollout, together with Google, of our first live test of a Two-Click Signup flow.
Our first live test takes an innovative “hybrid approach,” bringing together three discrete technologies into a unified experience: OpenID for sign-on; OAuth for delegated authorization; and the Google Contacts API for secure import of the user’s address book. Of course, that’s all “under the hood;” the user certainly doesn’t need to have understanding (or even awareness) of these enabling technologies – no matter how cool we think they are. ;)
The goal of the Two-Click Signup initiative is simple: deliver a new user onboarding experience based on the “Open Stack” that is strictly better for all parties than traditional registration flows. And that means we want to achieve something that it is:
better for the user by being more convenient and more secure;
better for the identity provider by not asking the user for their password and then scraping their data; and
better for the site by delivering a higher conversion rate on signup flows and getting more useful data from the user.
In this first test with Google, we’re experimenting with an optimized flow that starts with the invitation from a Plaxo member to a non-member via Gmail. Because we know the invitee is a Google user and is quite likely to be signed in to Google at the time they click over to Plaxo from the invitation, we can present them a “Google-optimized landing page” like this:
From there, it’s just two clicks to become a registered user of Plaxo. The first click takes them back to a Google consent page that looks like this:
The second click lets the person, if they choose, do two things: agree to use their Google account for signing in to Plaxo, and tell Google they grant Plaxo permission to access their email address and Gmail contacts. That allows us to get their address book started and to help them find the people they know on Plaxo. (Of course, if they choose not to use their Google credentials to signup, they can, of course, click over to our standard registration flow instead.)
[Please note: At this time, this is a test that will be seen by only a subset of Gmail invitees. Depending upon results, we may turn that percentage up or down or even suspend the test temporarily.]
We think this is a great start, but there’s a lot more work ahead. We need to monitor the results and then iterate rapidly, based on the data. And we need to follow-on with experiments with other identity providers, including not only other other webmail providers, but also with social networks. As with all things open, we’ll share what we learn along the way. After all, this isn’t just about improving OpenID for users of Plaxo and Google; it’s about enabling user-controlled data portability and interoperability across the emerging Social Web.
John McCrea
vp of marketing

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Redgee Capili

General Manager, Plaxo.com

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