How Single Sign-on Can Benefit Your Website

Written by James GunterJanuary 14, 2011

From time to time, you hear about new social networking sites cropping up, trying to be the Facebook-killer—the new, all-encompassing social network that promises to connect us to all our friends (and brands) in new and mind-blowing ways. But basically anything since the demise of MySpace has failed (Google Buzz, I’m looking in your direction). The fact of the matter is that 5 years ago, social networking was new, and only the most web savvy individuals saw any value in it. So we all messed around with a bunch of different platforms—Friendster, MySpace, Bebo, and others. But by the time we all figured out that MySpace had basically turned into a trashy hook-up spot for 14-year-olds with daddy issues, Facebook came along with its clean UI and easy-to-navigate profiles. And we were all hooked.

Since Facebook is pretty darn good at offering regular upgrades and improvements, there is no reason to leave for any other social network where we’d have to start from scratch with all our friend requests, pictures, profile information, and more. In fact, no one wants to make new profiles on any new sites anymore. It’s a hassle, and it’s annoying. It’s kind of like filling out the same job application for 10 different employers. You just want to put all your information in one place and use it for any purpose you want. And that’s what your website users want too.

Single Sign-on

This unwillingness to fill out the same form 10 times is why single sign-ons have become so popular. Facebook has the most ubiquitous single sign-on button with its Login social plug-in. But other sites that house personal information are hopping on the bandwagon as well, like Twitter, Yahoo!, Google, LinkedIn, AOL, and others. In fact, whole companies have cropped up to fill the need, like OpenID and OAuth.

The basic idea behind single sign-on is that users who already house their personal information and login credentials inside a social network or other website, can use those credentials to log in to multiple sites across the web, so they don’t have to keep creating new logins and passwords for every site that requires authentication or profile creation.

A Better User Experience

As a website owner, it’s important for you to lower the barrier of entry for potential users—especially if they need to log in to your website to use it. For new users, the prospect of having to create ANOTHER login for your site is enough to turn them away—I know I’ve done that very thing. But if they can come to your site, and see that they can use their Facebook, Twitter, or Google credentials to login, then that’s one less thing they need to worry about, and they are more likely to use your site. In fact, Gigya, a sort of single sign-on compiler, states that when it is implemented, it generally increases registrations by 25%. Not too shabby. And all because users can use the credentials they already have instead of having to create new ones.

Data Mining

But, as a website owner, you know that having users create a login for your site is about more than simply verifying identity—it’s about gathering precious user data, for marketing purposes and to create an individualized experience for your users. The great thing about single sign-on is that, not only does it lower the barrier of entry for first time users, but it also allows you to pull data from the social network they authenticated through—with the user’s permission. Every network is different, but you can generally pull things like name, email, location, picture(s), and other simple profile information like favorite movies, books, etc. For a more detailed review of which networks allow you to take which specific types of data, check out the graph below:

It’s a win-win. Users get to sign on quickly and easily. And you get to leverage their info to create a better, more personalized experience on your website.

Flirting with the Social Graph

Beyond a better user experience and getting the data you need to personalize your site for each user, all these social sign-ons allow you the ability to interact with your user’s social graph. Basically, it gives your users the ability to publish their experiences on your site back to their Facebook wall, or send a tweet about it, or whatever, depending on the credentials they have used to log in to your site. Again, this is a win-win; users can let their friends know what they are doing outside their social network of choice, and you get your name in front of all their friends. And since people trust their friends’ recommendations many times more than they do advertisements, you just got some powerful marketing messages sent for free.

Single, Single Sign-on

Now that you know you should get single sign-on on your site, you have a couple of choices. You can go around and gather up all the individual single sign-on plugins and APIs and implement them on your site, or you can go with a service like Gigya, which automatically gives your users the choice to use any of the most popular single sign-ons all in one easy spot. Gigya is the single, single sign-on, and it might be the best way to go if you want to quickly and easily give your users the broadest options for single sign-on.

Singularly Smart

All in all, using single sign-on is a smart way to increase registrations on your site and provide a better user experience for all your users, which will increase traffic, word-of-mouth advertising and, ultimately, profits. It’s a no brainer.

 

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