When an individual comes to Evite.com, s/he are in one of two states. They have either used Evite.com and, thus, have an account, or have not and this would be their first time. As for me, I have an account and have used Evite.com several times.
I went to Evite.com recently to use its service for a party I was planning. Arriving at its home page, I looked for a place to log on as I knew I had an account and would be required to in order to create my invitation. On the far right of the top navigation bar (above the search box) is the "Log In" text.
Let's stop right here for a moment. We all have "logged in" into sites for years. This is not an unknown nor uncertain action to take. Let me ask you, what do you expect to be on the page that's rendered after clicking on the "Log In" link? Take a moment...
Okay, got your answer? If you're like me, you'll be expecting a page that prompts one to enter a few key pieces of information in order to access an existing account. Maybe an account name or email address field as well as a password field, right?
Well, partially right in this case. Upon clicking on the "Log In' link, the following page does indeed include the ability to log in. Sadly, however, the page that was promised by the "Log In" link in fact has multiple purposes. What the user, hoping to log in and use Evite.com's services, sees is a an overwhelming use of page space dedicated to getting one to "Register" for an Evite.com.
So follow me here. I come to Evite.com to send a party invitation. I see the "Log In" link and click on it. I get asked to register.
Now one could argue that the page contains BOTH register and log in so I should just relax about this little example of poor design and just plain silliness. The issue I have with this argument is twofold. First, the promise of the "Log In" link was not met by the company that created the link. They created an expectation in the user's mind and then, on purpose, failed to meet it. Dumb decision, plain and simple. And secondly, while I am not a developer nor engineer, I have a big hunch that the cost of maintaining a separate page just for those that need to register is not a whole lot.
Giving the user even a moment of a "what the hell?" moment is too much. It is an invitation for them to look elsewhere and for the competition to come in with a better solution. The terribly sad thing is that in nearly all cases it is avoidable.
Anyone want to wager that, despite being sent this post, the product folks at Evite.com maintain this exact user experience in 6 months' time?