A single login for all Sainsbury’s digital services

Redefining the login, registration and customer account

The challenge

Sainsbury’s has diversified its services beyond the core groceries business. The brand now operates a telecom business, sell clothes, offer on demand entertainment… Each services have created their own registration and customer accounts, which forces customers to register again when they want to try a new service.

The brief

The decision was made to unify the authentication across all Sainsbury’s services. The user would go through a single account creation process (on Groceries for example), then would be logged in automatically to the ‘TU Clothing’ site, ‘Phone Shop’, ‘Sainsbury’s Entertainment’, ready to shop! Instead of creating one account for each of these services, Sainsbury’s would finally offer a simple and coherent brand experience.

Creating a single login meant that we had to re-platform every customers account, and shut down the current third party platform hosting this system. This gave us the opportunity to design and simplify the whole registration and login experience as well as customers accounts.

My role

I was in charge of the UX Architecture and Interaction design on this project.

I worked alongside the product owner and the technical architect to make sure we’d take the best feasible decisions for existing and new customers.

Collaborating with a visual designer, we oversaw the front-end work of two external development agencies.

The approach

  • Cross service analysis
  • Understanding of current authentication issues
  • Defining an improved authentication experience
  • Delivering and testing the solution
  • Making the new authentication accessible

Analysis of services requirements

I analysed all the services that would eventually need to adopt the new authentication system, in order to understand their requirements. We wanted to make sure that the new authentication would comply with various services requirements. This analysis showed that they had similar registration and login requirements, the groceries business requiring more informations that the other.

A few registration pages from various Sainsbury’s services

Feedback from contact centre on main authentication issues

Analytics tracking wasn’t available on the current website, making it hard to get quantitative data. Log in and Registration were generating a lot of contact centre calls and caused great frustration for the customers (‘I have forgotten my Username’, ‘I have forgotten the answer to my secret question’, ‘I can’t reset my password’, “I have been locked out of my account’). The business was keen to simplify the customer experience and let customers troubleshoot authentication issues by themselves.

On a weekly basis, the contact centre receives more than 1500 calls from customers trying to access or use their accounts. This account for 5% of all customers calls.
Top five error messages encountered during the registration are related to secondary options such as selecting a marketing preferences, “where did you hear about us?”, terms and conditions, or setting up a secret question.
10% of users trying to login would make at least one mistake, whilst 7% would end up with their account locked after the third password attempt ; forcing them to call the contact centre.

Mapping out authentication / registration to improve user journey

I mapped out the current login and registration process, in order to identify the gaps, dead-end and opportunities for improvements. We also cut a few trivial questions off the registration to make the process shorter:

  • “Where did you hear about us?” was no longer used by any department.
  • Setting up a secret question answer was no longer required to recover access to an account.

Alongside the product owner and the technical team, we proposed new solutions to remove any dead-end and enabling customers to trouble-shoot issues by themselves. Our solutions were mapped out on a large wall in our office, giving us a good overview of end-to-end user journeys.

Reviewing the account navigation

As part of the ‘account’ redesign, we try to ease the access to the core functionalities of the account section. 80% of visits to the account results in viewing an ongoing or a recent groceries order, so we decided to make this feature more accessible. A dashboard with responsive modules was chosen for its flexibility of content.

The security challenge

We live in an era where big companies are under frequent attack from hackers. The business wanted to make sure we would never reveal any customer data during the login / registration, and every decision had to go through the info-security team to be compliant with their strict guidelines.

Unfortunately, in order to identify wether a human or a robot is trying to access an account, customers take the burden to prove their are not robot. Many services implement a “Captcha” (the blurry bit of text), but this module is highly inaccessible to customers with vision impairment (and even to customer with no impairment). The newly released (back in 2015) Google “re-captcha” improved the process but didn’t fully satisfy our accessibility standards. After trying out a few options, we decided to implement a mix of invisible security measures to flag abnormal on-page user behaviour, and only rely on “re-Captcha” for suspicious behaviour. That way we would minimise the burden put on the customer.

We made the most of the latest security measure such as double factor authentication, where the use of multiple devices to authenticate makes it harder to break into a customer account. Working alongside technical experts and development team made it easy to discuss feasibility and to make sure we wouldn’t compromise on the user experience.

User testing

We organised a first round of user testing while re-designing the login and registration process. This also included testing with customers with visual disabilities. The feedback from these sessions helped us improve the page layout, the copy, position of our buttons and colours being used on the page.

I facilitated another round of testing later to test the changes we made to the design. Following the session, we decided to apply a few changes such as reducing the amount of information requested on the account landing page, or to improve the visual hints on the navigation drop-down.

Axure Prototype created to test the new navigation

Inclusive design

This project was one the first project to be designed with accessibility needs in minds at Sainsbury’s. I worked alongside an Accessibility Consultant with a strong experience working with best-in-class digital companies (BBC), who was in charge of reviewing design propositions and flagging opportunities for improvements.

We worked collaboratively to improve the page layout to make it more accessible at various responsive breakpoints. We worked with our visual designers to improve the colour contrast and also make sure the design would work on screen with inverted colours

`Improving the page layout and responsive breakpoints
Testing with a visually impaired customer using the inverted colour function on their phone

I also discovered how tricky it is to design for screen-reader users, in order to make sure they can understand and use every single page they encounter. Not relying on any visual hint, these users mostly rely on the copy, tabbing order and keyboard shortcut. Working with the accessibility consultant, I added tabbing specifications to my wireframes, so the developers would know how to best nest elements and to make the tabbing efficient.

Design specifications indicating how to implement the tabbing order for screen readers

It was amazing to test our design with a blind user, putting the live product to the screen-reader test. I was especially impressed by the speed at which he was using this software, which is why we made sure to fine tune the navigation and the copy to make it as quick to use as possible.


This project hasn’t been released yet, due to dependencies with other projects being blocked. I’ll update this section once released and evaluate the success of our approach.