How Websites Should Model Car Locks

As online streaming rose in popularity, the convention of logging into a tv network’s website using a cable provider user name and password became more common. Unfortunately, only some websites handle this user flow properly and many could learn a few things from the auto industry.

Although cars are not often models of usability, many have a locking mechanism that sounds the horn after a driver presses the lock button twice on his or her keys. This provides clear, unambiguous feedback that the car is locked. If only logging and and out of tv network websites was as intuitive.

Fox: Unclear:
Fox offers the ability to watch many full episodes of tv shows directly on their website, but had the worst sign in implementation of the three sites that I tested. After successfully entering cable provider user information, the confusion begins. Rather than indicating that the user is logged in, the cable provider’s logo is displayed.


This conflicts with the common convention of indicating a user’s status in the menu bar with ‘log in’ or ‘log out’ options. It is unclear how a company’s name indicates the user’s status. Even worse, clicking the cable provider’s logo redirects the user to the provider’s company website. The only way to log out is by clicking the small ‘x’ above the cable provider logo. There is no textual indication that the ‘x’ serves this purpose and its functionality is only revealed with a tooltip. Unlike the straight forward and useful confirmation of a car horn, FOX’s interface fails to provide indicators for a satisfactory log in experience.

TNT: Better:
TNT has a slightly better implementation of the same user flow. After being prompted to sign in with cable provider credentials, the user must select a cable provider’s logo and log in. Then the interface indicates that the tv show or movie is being presented ‘In partnership with’ the cable provider.


Unlike on FOX’s website, clicking the cable provider logo does not navigate to a completely separate page, instead it logs the user out. This action is unexpected and would benefit from a message indicating what clicking the logo will do. A car with a locking mechanism analogous to TNT’s log in interface would force drivers to unlock their car by pressing the car company logo on their key. TNT’s log in flow has room for improvement.

HBO Go: Usable:
Fox and TNT could learn from HBO Go’s version of cable provider based sign in. Once a user is logged into his or her cable provider, the cable company’s logo is displayed along with the user’s log in name. This indicates both log in status and the account the user is logged into. Most importantly, clicking on the username presents a menu of choices including the option to sign out. Only HBO Go’s interface provides explicit options for signing in and out and consistent indicators of the user’s status making it the most usable design.

hboTake Aways:
Cars provide useful indicators while being locked, but many website log in flows are not as elegantly designed. Adding menu items and clear status indications would improve Fox and TNT’s interfaces. HBO Go’s design is successful because it provides the controls necessary to complete the task of logging in and out along with indications of the user’s status. Although cars predate web interfaces, they can still teach important usability lessons.

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