We all want to solve the problem of having to remember so many usernames and passwords on the Internet. Developers pretty much “get” OpenID. But for regular users, OpenID is very confusing.
A troubling element is using the same words to describe different things.
Many sites want to “connect” to social media. So they build Facebook pages, open Twitter accounts, etc. They are confusing this with Facebook Connect, Twitter Connect…and wind up just generally confusing the heck out of people visiting their sites.
Facebook, Digg and Twitter icons are ubiquitous now. But unfortunately for OpenID, the icons are not being differentiated.
What do I mean?
Check out the screenshots below for Huffington Post and Kmart. Both use the term “connect” to mean different things. Huffington Post means login using Twitter or Facebook whereas KMart (and Sears and several other popular retailers using the same backend system) are referring to their social media profiles.
The user has no way to know if they click the link whether they will see a facebook page, or be presented with an OpenID login.
I think the social media sites should have a distinctive difference in their icons for logging in vs. a link to a profile. And if the OpenID site could offer a guideline to websites implementing the feature, be it as an OpenID provider or just using it to login, it could start the ball rolling.
As a decidedly incapable designer (which you must know if you looked around a bit, ahem), I would suggest surrounding icons with a yellow border, which is kinda the color I associate with OpenID. But before you rake me over the coals, I really mean to say that a designer might be able to come up with a good thought on how providers could make alterations to their icon design to improve differentiation.
I know this isn’t a huge deal, but the devil with usability is in the details, and sometimes we need to speak out what is obvious in retrospect.