Microsoft recently updated its sign-in page for services that utilize the company’s Windows Live ID authentication system.
The software giant explained the change in a blog post on Wednesday, days after the company completed the switch. Users of services such as Hotmail are now presented with a “streamlined page” designed to focus on one single account with a check box to “keep me signed in.” The interface differs to the previous one that would require two check boxes per account to remember the ID and password. Microsoft’s previous interface catered for users of multiple Windows Live IDs and appears to have angered that subset of customers.
“What a huge step BACKWARD,” said one commenter on Microsoft’s blog post. Other commenters were less forgiving. “How can you be so ignorant, user-unfriendly, tactless and arrogant,” asked one commenter referring to Microsoft’s suggestion that users should “consider creating a separate Windows user account for each person who uses the computer” if using multiple Windows Live accounts is a common activity. Microsoft’s delayed communication on the change and its approach has gathered around 72 comments on its blog post, most of them complaining about the switch.
Microsoft explained the old problems with its design and hopes that the new one will avoid any potential confusion for users:
- Customer confusion: We got consistent reports from customers who were confused by the design. Not understanding which checkbox did what and as a result accidentally leaving account tiles at an internet cafe or a friend’s house were common complaints. Depending on your settings, sometimes you were signed in but still had to click the tile, sign-out didn’t always work as expected, sometimes you had to enter a password and sometimes not – it seemed random and confusing. To make matters worse, tiles only worked on Internet Explorer; other browsers always had the simpler experience.
- Changing trends in device ownership: As more people bought laptops and smartphones (which tend to be used by just one person), we heard more feedback that the tiles just got in the way, and what people really wanted to do was to just get to the service without interruption. We knew from our telemetry that fewer than 2% of users were using the tiles, but 100% of our users were interrupted by them in the old design.
- Consolidation on a primary account: Increasingly, customers are consolidating their Windows Live usage into one primary account. It used to be common for one person to have multiple accounts. As we’ve integrated Windows Live ID across other products like Xbox, Windows Phone, SkyDrive, and Office –the core account has become more valuable, and it’s become less necessary to switch between accounts.