A simple design trick guaranteed to infuriate your paying subscribers

Update: See Oct 12, 2010 update below

There’s not a lot of content that I pay for online, but there is some, such as the WSJ and Zagat.

Despite valuing its online content enough to pay for it, I end up irritated with WSJ.com every time I have to interact with it and re-sign in (typically, after clearing cookies or changing computers).

Why? The site makes it nearly impossible to find a ‘log in’ link so that current subscribers can continue reading teaser content.  (go ahead: see if you can find it below in 5 seconds or less)  Instead, they plaster ‘subscribe now’ in at least 6 places on the page, including at the most logical place to also include ‘sign in’: where they cut off the teaser content.

It’s a usability flaw that never ceases to irritate me, even though I now know where the microscopic log in link is located.  Is this really how the WSJ wants to engage its existing subscribers?

 

Go ahead: try to find the 'log in' link so you can finish reading the article that you've paid to access as a subscriber

 

Site designers and UX planners should never lose sight of the fact that even as they’re trying to entice new users to their properties, they should create a great experience for their existing users — particularly paying ones.

Update: Oct 12, 2010

To the WSJ’s credit (and to my astonishment), they:

* Graciously acknowledged my tweet/gripe about the above issue, via a Tweet reply within 10 minutes. Here’s the exchange:

* Sometime between then and now, they updated their teaser content landing page as shown below.  It now includes 2 additional login links where you’d logically expect those links to be: before the paid content begins and after the teaser cut-off.

The above has now gone from an example of a design gripe to an example of turning a suggestion around so that the griper becomes an evangelist (which is what I’m doing with this updated blog post and new Tweet). At the same time, the WSJ’s social media folks listened to a valid suggestion, got it to the right department, and that department made an improvement which now benefits all their subscribers.

Great example of social media in action and done well. Marketers: take notes.

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