Third time I've encountered this problem over the years..

Every time I go to a new StackExchange site, I think that (because I'm a SO member) I should use the "login with StackExchange" option. It's listed first and I'm a member, right, so it must apply to me?

Every time I try "login with StackExchange" and enter my email & password -- I get told "No account with this email found".

Not very helpful or correct. I know I have an account with this email, I've just come from StackOverflow! There's nothing to suggest that if "login with StackExchange" is only applicable to some users.. or that my having possibly originally signed up via my Google account somehow makes me a second-class citizen.

I signed up 2+ years ago, I have scores & scores of accounts at different websites.. I shouldn't need to keep track of tedious implementation details of my account; & really just expect a friendly & easy signon. The experience here, however is below the generally very good level of usability, elsewhere throughout SO & StackExchange sites.

I'm after a user-level improvement in this area, not a technical-level explanation as to why doing this better is impossible.

At the very least it needs some explanatory text and/or links on the signup pages, to explain to perfectly genuine StackExchange account-holders why their apparently valid email & account are being rejected for signup purposes.

  • +1. I think the same thing every time I sign up for a site. Supposing they can recognize that you are logged in elsewhere on SE, they should just prompt/shortcut you to create a bona fide SE openID, as described here: meta.stackexchange.com/a/174757/209360 – Frank Oct 22 '13 at 3:31
  • I lose an hour of productivity to this 2-3 times a year. It is SO ANNOYING! – Bruno Bronosky Aug 5 '15 at 15:07

We are moving in this direction, but it's just not technically possible for us to do it anytime soon.

  • Well, in the very least you can detect email ending with gmail.com then show message like "Maybe you meant to log in with Google?" - and same for other common providers. Only cosmetic change, but from what I see it will save many from getting lost. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Jan 30 '14 at 18:44
  • I haven't run the numbers, but I would be very surprised if it was more than 50-50 on Google versus stack exchange with a Gmail extension. My gut feeling is it would be useful for some and equally confusing to others. – Jeremy T Jan 30 '14 at 18:53
  • Oh, didn't occur to me people were using gmail address to sign up to Stack Exchange OpenID but you're right. So it's more tricky than what I though. Will keep looking for simple way to make it less confusing. – Shadow The Vaccinated Wizard Jan 30 '14 at 20:28

Sure, this could be an improvement. Here's a crude mockup of one possibility:

A box at the top of the sign up page, with an option to sign up to the site with your current network profile
This could definitely be better worded and presented to more clearly refer to a Stack Exchange network profile.

We already have something that checks if you have an account for the site you're visiting, which logs you in if so. I wonder if we could also have something to let the above option present itself.

On that confusion...

You should probably understand there's a reason you can't sign in with your Stack Exchange account: your credentials are with some other service you signed up with, like Google or Yahoo, so when you create a new account on the Stack Exchange network, you need to provide your credentials from that site again. You don't have Stack Exchange login credentials unless you create them and associate them with your account.

This is a disconnect from the traditional way of doing things that Jeff Atwood describes as your Internet Driver's License.

That said, it's a user experience designer's responsibility to try and ensure you're not confused like this in the first place - and I say that as a UX designer - so if this is a significant concern, it probably does warrant a change so the sign up or log in pages can better express what's going on.

(On the other hand though: this is not an ideal world, and sometimes making a change like this can just make a page more confusing)

  • Thanks Jonathan, something like this could definitely help. "my current network profile" could probably be worded more meaningfully.. since that would normally be talking about my dialup or WiFi settings on Windows :) Perhaps "sign me up to this site with my current StackExchange network profile". – Thomas W Oct 22 '13 at 4:10
  • On this prototype I'd also suggest perhaps changing the OpenID logon question to be, "Do you already have an OpenID on one of these sites? Click the logo to login with it here". Since it's not just an account, it's an OpenID which is required. I'd also change the StackExchange graphic to be more specific -- "OpenID from StackExchange". The problem here is a false appearance of generality, in that SE users aren't all able to signup with the first & most obvious option. – Thomas W Oct 22 '13 at 4:12

I came across this post because I was curious if StackExchange had this feature somewhere... I've been getting bitten by this stupidity on a semi regular basis lately and because I didn't feel like dealing with it I've been kept away from certain StackExchange areas I haven't yet signed up for.

But reading this I've figured out what's difficult for me: I can't remember what credential service I've already used on SO or whatever else. I do know they're the same one because when the stars align and I get to a part of the StackExchange network I'm a member of I can see my other memberships.

Maybe I'm missing something in the UI but all I would like is an obvious clue like "You have 12 StackExchange network accounts associated with your XYZ credentials... would you like to create an account using XYZ?"


With universal login now in place, we can actually track who you are across the network once you log in on any of our Q&A sites. (Assuming your browser accepts third-party cookies).

To join a Q&A site you don't already have a profile on, click "join this community" in the top bar while logged in, and it should be pretty seamless from there.

  • Yep, much better. Thanks for simplifying this, it makes the user experience much better! – Thomas W Jan 7 '16 at 0:36

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