The confusing behavior of “Remember me” features

20Feb09

I’ve noticed that more and more sites are adding an option to save or “remember” your login information. However, this feature behaves very differently depending on how the website implemented it. For instance, some sites save only your username, but they keep it stored until you turn the feature off. In contrast, other sites save both your username and password, but only keep this info stored for a week or so. With so many different behaviors, it’s hard for users to know what to expect.

A little bit of instructional text can fix the problem. On the screen where you present the “Remember me” option, start by telling the user what’s being saved: their username, their password, or both. Then, tell them how long the info will be kept. A few ideal examples include “Remember my username for 30 days” or “Keep me signed in for the next two weeks”. For added clarity, tell people what they still need to enter along with the saved info, and what happens after that period. For instance, you might add some smaller text that says “We’ll store your username and password during that time, but you’ll have to enter them again after the two weeks are up.”

On the positive side, many sites are doing a great job explaining why you might not want to store your password. Specifically, if you’re on a computer that several people share, or you’re using a public kiosk terminal, saving your account information would be just as bad as giving it out to strangers. As the “Remember me” feature continues to evolve, I hope that we see more standardization among different sites, along with sufficient instructional text to help users understand what they’re getting.



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