The unexpected costs of third-party login

For app developers, Login with Facebook is less beneficial and more work than you think

Taylor Hughes is a co-founder at Cluster, which builds web and mobile apps that enable users to create private sharing environments for groups, travelers, classrooms, and more.

The promise of social login

Using a third-party login provider allows users to skip filling out the same tedious details they’ve filled out a million times before.

Facebook baggage and unexpected user expectations for your product

As a developer, Facebook authentication does not get you much these days beyond a user’s profile information and a readonly list of existing friends.

Unexpected technical costs

Implementing third-party login seems easy at first. Every login provider’s how-to page makes it seem extraordinarily simple: drag and drop a button in Xcode, right? But it’s never as simple as it sounds.

You can’t get away with just one kind of social login

Cluster’s initial public launch was a pretty simple MVP, and we didn’t think much about new user onboarding at the time. The first thing a user saw was simply a blue screen with a big fat “Login with Facebook” button on it.

At left, the first version of Cluster, v0.9, drew ire from new users. At right, v0.9.1 stopped the bleeding in App Store reviews.

Users won’t remember how they signed up

As it turns out, supporting multiple sign-in options adds a tremendous amount of complexity. Instead of an interface where a user can only do one thing — even if it means filling out a tedious form — people have to stop and think about options.

The end

In the end, I would not suggest jumping into the “Sign in with X” bandwagon without closely considering the costs and benefits.

Pretty good at regular expressions.

Pretty good at regular expressions.