There are as many debates on the use of “Log in” vs. “Sign In” as there are articles, research and opinions on this subject.
In software development the first thing is to define elements of the product so as to move past it and remove further discussion or argument.
So, let’s take a look at the definition of each to clarify them to remove any debate, we’ll then look at usage examples as well as how and when you should use them.
Log in or Login?
Just when you thought it was simply an issue of which to use, you now have the added debate of “Log In” as two words vs. “Login” as a single word. Grammarist defines this relationship:
“Login, spelled as one word, is only a noun or an adjective. For example, the information you use to sign into your email is your login (noun), and the page where you sign in is the log in page (adjective). Log in is two words when it functions as a verb. For example, you log in with your login information.”
You log in with your login information.
Before we move on you will also see the use of “Log-in” using the hyphen. Proper usage of the hyphen as defined by Grammarbook:
“Generally, hyphenate two or more words when they come before a noun they modify and act as a single idea. This is called a compound adjective. When a compound adjective follows a noun, a hyphen may or may not be necessary. However, some established compound adjectives are always hyphenated.”
This definition concludes that the use of “Log-in” for software is incorrect as “Log In” as two words is a verb and not compound adjective before a noun.
“Sign In” is a verb and is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:
To make a record of arrival by signing a register or punching a time clock
To record arrival of (a person) or receipt of (an article) by signing ”
The act of entering personal information into fields in order to be registered or known by a program or website is an action (verb) so both “Log In” and “Sign In” are correct by their definitions. Whereas, “Login”, “Log-in” and “Sign-in” are all incorrect.
So just like the song should we keep debating usage or just give the whole thing up?
Not so quick… Before we agree to disagree let’s take a look at real world examples and see what others are using.
Who Does What?
Each site was randomly selected based on popularity.
|Website||Sign In||Log In|
|Microsoft (Hotmail / Outlook)|
Looking at some of the largest sites on the internet “Log In” and “Sign In” both had equal usage, which doesn’t bring us any closer to determining which is the best usage.
So far we’ve determined that both “Log In” and “Sign In” are verbs and that they are equally used across several popular websites. The key to usage really comes down to relationship of the process of entering your information as either a “New” or “Existing” user.
Are you Accessing or Creating an Account?
One of my favorite articles on this subject can be read at UXMovement, Why ‘Sign Up’ and ‘Sign In’ Button Labels Confuse Users, this article focuses on confusion around creating an account and accessing your account.
Similarities in verbiage and visual style effect user ability to complete tasks as well as their cognitive load.
Artist style also matters. Use primary, secondary and tertiary visual action styles to help reduce cognitive load and increase user success.
As you can see its not a case of “Sign Up” vs “Sign In” its a relationship issues between different types of actions.
Whether you use “Sign In” or “Log In” make sure that users aren’t confused by outside factors such as location, color or the relationship between creating accounts and accessing them.
And, test, test, test… You may find that your users’ response rates or time of completion changes based on the verbiage that you use.
As for me…I’m giving the whole thing up.