Judging a book by its cover

Not quite a book, but an old cigarette card album

If you’re in the market for a new SaaS based application there are a lot of dimensions to consider: features, pricing model, vendor stability, future proofing and more.

For products that don’t offer free trials, getting answers to these questions can take work: you have to submit your contact details to a mailing list, align calendars, sit through demos.

If you need to narrow the field down, the login page for the application can tell you an awful lot about how the application is built, what stage of growth the product is at and maybe hint at the companies priorities: all without having to talk to anyone and getting your email on a list.

So, dig out the login page for an application and lets take a look.


So what do you see? Aesthetically does the login page look like an app you’d want to use? Or is it ‘developer pretty’. Has someone thought about alignment of text in input fields or was it just thrown together?

Flip on mobile viewport and see what happens: does the page elegantly resize? Throw an error that the app shouldn’t be used on cell phones, only in Internet Explorer? Or completely ignore it, expecting you to pinch and zoom?


Accessibility is all about using the tools HTML gives you to make a page accessible to those with disabilities. There’s plenty of tools that will check this for you. Point the page at something like Wave and see what score the page gets. In isolation, the score may not mean much to you but if you compare a few sites you’ll soon figure out which companies care even enough to algorithmically test for accessibility.

Another form of accessibility: is the page compatible with a password vault? Or are the developers actively trying to defeat one (cough_ most banks _cough).


How quickly does the login page load? Were you waiting, was there a modal dialog? Or did the page pop immediately into existence? If you wish you can quantify page load using a tool like Google PageSpeed - but beware, some vendors will pre-load for post login performance which can make first page performance score worse.

Back when I worked on web based products we would argue about this a lot. The thinking went that customers paying a subscription are not as sensitive to site performance as perhaps they would be e-commerce.. I always felt that was baloney: they’ve paid for the product so it should be as fast as we can make it so they waste less time.

A site that’s fast shows that someone senior at the vendor cares.

Peek under the hood

Next, right click and view source. Some things I look for:

Boiling it down

Ultimately the login page can tell you a lot about the vendors priorities:

Clearly I have my bias. I believe a well built product is easier to maintain and enhance. All else equal that means better long term customer satisfaction and retention. If you arrived at a new vendor’s office to find a beat up reception area you’d wonder about the priorities of the operation. A login page is no different. First impressions count.